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Community shuts down grocery store after worker tested positive for Covid-19

Residents accuse Food Lover's Market management at Jabulani Mall of failing to close the outlet after an alleged Covid-19 scare. / Veli Nhlapo
Residents accuse Food Lover's Market management at Jabulani Mall of failing to close the outlet after an alleged Covid-19 scare. / Veli Nhlapo

Angry residents in Soweto yesterday forced the Food Lover's Market at Jabulani Mall to close after one of its employees had been told to go into a 14-day quarantine on suspicion that she had Covid-19.

The worker was allegedly told to self-quarantine after displaying Covid-19 symptoms in mid-April, but when her colleagues questioned their superiors, they were apparently told that she had flu.

Residents in the area stormed the outlet on Sunday, confronted the managers and forced the store to close, but police officers were called to the scene and dispersed the crowd.

Community members returned again yesterday after finding out the store was open and once again forced it to close its doors.

A staff member, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, told Sowetan their colleague seemed sick around Easter.

"It first started with a cough, but we didn't take much note of it because we were all busy. There are sanitisers in the store and we were given masks. But we found it odd when she did not report for work for 14 days and only
returned on Friday [May 1]," the staffer said.

He said they confronted their managers and they were still told that their colleague had flu.

"How can they tell us that she had the flu for two weeks? Is that not a coincidence? Why did they not tell us to also quarantine? This means they don't care about our wellbeing and that of our families because if she has Covid-19, we might have it and our families might have it. Many customers might have it," he said.

He said the employee was taken to get tested yesterday and they were waiting for the results.

"We'll have to see what the results are, but we hope they are negative," he said.

When the Sowetan team visited Jabulani Mall yesterday, it found the store closed.

Many of the employees wearing face masks were sitting in the store and seemed bewildered by the closure.

The franchise's spokesperson Nigel Meintjes denied the staff member tested positive for Covid-19 nor had any proof been produced to them.

"The staff member in question went on normal sick leave on 16 April 2020 and was booked off for two weeks until 30 April 2020. We understand that this was for influenza. She was not tested for Covid-19 as she did not show any symptoms," Meintjies said.

He said the affected staff member was taken by the health department for a Covid-19 test and they were waiting for the outcome.

"If she tests positive, the franchisee will activate and follow all protocols which have been communicated to them in detail from the head office. In the meantime, the franchise intends reopening and will trade as normal," he said.

Sibusiso Mnguni, a community leader, said: "Our people come here on a daily basis, and we mean thousands of people. They are not coming here from Zola, Jabulani or surrounding townships.

"If this person has it then, can you imagine how many people are at risk of having contracted this virus? It's irresponsible," Mnguni said.

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