Fifty cash-in-transit security guards test positive for Covid-19

Fifty fidelity officers tested positive for Covid-19
Fifty fidelity officers tested positive for Covid-19
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai

A group of 50 cash-in-transit employees who have tested positive for Covid-19 are blaming their company for being responsible for their infection.

They claim the management of Fidelity Cash Solutions has been sitting on information for four weeks that one of their colleagues who recently died was infected with the coronavirus.

The employees, who range between the ages of 28 and 50, on Thursday and Friday filled up three taxis to go and test - allegedly against the company's wishes. They received their results on Friday that confirmed they had been infected.

"They kept it all a secret and didn't want us to test, so we all took it upon ourselves [to go and test] and on Thursday we took three quantums [taxis] and went to get tested. I got my results on Friday afternoon which came back positive, they told me to isolate for 14 days," one employee said. "All of us who went to get tested are positive, only two were negative. We were about 50."

Their claim, which the company has refuted, is that they all got infected by their recently departed colleague who worked as a security guard at their branch in Hermanstad, Pretoria. They suspected that the guard had died from coronavirus as he could not eat and had spent his last shift sleeping at work and "went to the hospital on a Tuesday and died the following day".

Another employee who also opted to remain anonymous said they got really worried when a woman that worked closely with him and a security officer who searched them when they enter the building tested positive. Upon hearing their status the company decided to throw them to the wolves, according to the employees.

They first told them that their salaries would be docked and that the company would find their replacement while they are isolating. "When I called them about my results at work they did not believe me, they said they wanted proof that I am positive, failing which they will dock my salary even further. But that was not possible because the hospital gave me the results through a phone call and said I can collect the results on the 6th [of July] after my isolation," one staffer said.

Sowetan independently confirmed with the Tshwane District Hospital that the group had tested positive and that their results were communicated to them through phone.

A senior doctor at the hospital told Sowetan that they were "worried" about the large number of workers from the same company that had tested positive. "We did have a number of a supervisor who was phoned just to notify them that their employees tested positive."

However, even after notifying the company, employees continued to be subjected to threats of their salaries being docked and only following Sowetan inquiries, the company took a sudden turn yesterday when they, for the first time, sent messages to the staffers. In the message, Fidelity Group Services regional manager Melanie Janse van Rensburg said "the company has empathy and sympathy towards your current reported Covid-19 status" but goes on to reiterate that their salaries would be docked.

"However, kindly contact your regional manager urgently with your official results. Should you fail to submit official confirmation of your results it will be regarded as unpaid leave. Should you fail to contact your regional manager, it will be treated as abscontion(*sp)," read the message.

The company told Sowetan that they were first informed of the cases on Thursday and that "the branch was closed and sanitised for the 3rd time last week" and they informed the department of health but said government inspectors had not visited the offices.

The departments of health and labour had not responded to Sowetan queries by the time of going to print.

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