Thursday, 14 January 2021

Pretoria: Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, has called on managers at the South African Post Office (Sapo) to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are adhered to.

This call comes after the Deputy Minister observed images circulating on social media of queues at Post Offices in which there is no social distancing, lack of personal protection equipment (PPE), and irresponsible behaviour such as close interactions and the sharing of food.

Mkhize has expressed concerned that amongst these images circulating are those of disabled children who are being put at risk due to lack of social distancing, as well face masks not being worn.

“Many of these children with disabilities have underlying conditions and compromised immune systems, and as such, find themselves at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and suffering from health complications as a result, that can even lead to loss of life,” the Deputy Minister said.

With queues of people linked to grant collection, no social distancing, the level of exposure and infection rates can spike.

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities said the safety of children must always be the apex priority.

“South Africa subscribes to a number of international instruments like the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and our own Children’s Act (Act 38 of 2005, as amended). Government and civil society must adhere to these treaties and instruments in protecting our children from any harm,” Mkhize said.

The department has encouraged responsible departments to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are adhered to, as queues with no social distancing can be considered a ‘super-spreader’ event and can place an even bigger strain on the health system.

“Government interventions were amplified when President Cyril Ramaphosa heeded the call to assist persons with disabilities by announcing an increase in the amounts of a number of grants, which included that of persons with disabilities.

“The increase in cash transfers to those in need was also aimed at alleviating food insecurity and relieve social distress caused by the lockdown. We therefore call on all citizens to be responsible when accessing these grants, by adhering to all COVID-19 protocols,” the department said.