SA trade union withdraws protective gear case

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South African public sector union NEHAWU has withdrawn a court case against government over shortages of protective gear for frontline health workers treating coronavirus patients after meeting the health minister.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, the country’s main health workers’ union with 250 000 members, launched the case to force government to ensure adequate supplies of vital equipment including masks and gloves.

A global scarcity of protective equipment for nurses, doctors, porters and other health workers is a major obstacle in attempts to curb death tolls, elsewhere in Africa and on other continents.

“We have taken a decision to discontinue the legal course of action as there is now a commitment to address our concerns,” the union said in a statement.

Among commitments from government was that no worker would be forced or intimidated to work without proper protection and that stocks of masks, gloves and goggles should be scrutinised to determine whether all frontline workers were catered for, NEHAWU said.

South Africa has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa, at 1 845 with 18 deaths, but that is expected to rise as government embarks on a mass testing drive.