Covid-19 concerns at homeless camp after officers test positive

Up to a week after being tested, dozens of people staying at the City of Cape Town’s Strandontein camp don’t have their results

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Photo of camp
The camp for homeless people set up by the City of Cape Town at Strandfontein. Photo: Lucas Nowicki

UPDATE: There is an update to this article published here.

Two events are causing concern about Covid-19 at the City of Cape Town’s homeless camp at the Strandfontein Sports Complex.

First, the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) claimed on 30 April that nine law enforcement officers stationed at Strandfontein have tested positive for Covid-19. What contact the officers had with people at the camp or why so many have tested positive is unclear at the time of writing.

Bridgette Nkomana, SAMWU Cape Metro Deputy Regional Secretary, confirmed that the officers who tested positive were removed from the camp on 26 April and are in quarantine.

SAMWU is the majority union for City Law Enforcement.

Second, a week after dozens of homeless people staying at the camp were tested, their results are not back.

The camp consists mainly of large tents. One of these, run by the organisation Night Haven, is called Haven Tent 2. From 24 to 27 April over 50 of the at least 250 people staying in the tent were tested for Covid-19. But as of 30 April, none had received their results.

In a report for the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Dr Gilles Van Cutsem, an epidemiologist with Medecins Sans Frontieres, described the massed living conditions at the camp as a high risk for Covid-19 transmission.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, said on 30 April that the City has begun repeating the screening and testing of all people in the Strandfontein camp. He said the results of those tested are still pending and dependent on laboratory capacity. The City said that those awaiting tests have been isolated until their results are available, and to date no one at the camp has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

But a resident of Haven Tent 2, who wished to remain anonymous and who was among those tested on 24 April, said that they have been able to move around the site and were not isolated. He also expressed confusion about why not everyone staying in the tent is being tested.

He claimed that the City had not communicated to anyone inside the camp about the officers testing positive for Covid-19 and that they only found out about it on 30 April from the SAHRC.

The Strandfontein complex, established several weeks ago to shelter a large portion of Cape Town’s homeless population during the lockdown, has been controversial from the outset and conditions have been criticised by the SAHRC and others. The City has committed to closing it, but details on how and by when this will happen remain unclear.

UPDATE: There is an update to this article published here.

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Homeless

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