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City to report Weekend Argus, SAMWU for using fake news to fear monger about COVID-19 pandemic <p>​I am appalled by the Weekend Argus front page today. The content is based on lies and misinformation, is irresponsible and is nothing but fear mongering and an attempt to spread panic among residents with little regard to the serious consequences and impact it will have on people’s lives. <br>This is a stressful and anxious time for all South Africans, and we cannot allow misinformation to add to the fear.<br>The City had to correct misinformation in Independent Media’s titles on numerous occasions in the past. However, this time around we are in the midst of a national crisis. We simply cannot wait for them to decide whether or not to correct their false reporting.</p><p>The Weekend Argus, being part of the Independent Media stable, withdrew from the National Press Council. Thus, the City has no recourse in this matter – we cannot report unbalanced, unfair, and false reporting to the Press Ombudsman. As they are accountable to nobody but themselves, we are left with no choice but to report this to the South African Police Service for investigation under the National Disaster Management Act.</p><p>It is crucial for government and media to work together, and we expect to be held accountable for our shortcomings. However, the media also has a very important responsibility to report fairly, and with context and balance. When the public is misinformed on purpose in an attempt to create panic, this must be exposed. </p><p>Section 12 of the Act reads:<br>Offences and penalties<br>14. (2) Any person who publishes any statement. through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about<br>(a) COVID-19; <br>(b) COVID -19 infection status of any person; or <br>(c) any measure taken by the Government to address COVID -19<br>commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.</p><p>On the front page of the Weekend Argus article titled, ‘Fears of Homeless Outbreak,’ the public are led to believe that 9 Law Enforcement Officers have the Coronavirus and have infected the homeless at the Strandfontein temporary emergency shelter and that the homeless are now being released to infect the population. This is false and blatantly malicious reporting. <br>The facts are:</p><p>1. On 26 & 27 April 2020, two staff members who assisted on a temporary basis at the Joint Operations Centre (JOC), at Strandfontein tested positive on separate occasions for COVID-19. </p><p>2. The two staff members never had any contact with any of the homeless people at the facility in Strandfontein, as the JOC is separately located and fenced off, and not open to any residents or service providers on site.</p><p>3. The JOC was closed; deep cleansed and decontaminated on 27 April 2020 as per health and safety protocols, and was operational two days later.</p><p>4. Officials who had contact with the two members were immediately isolated and tested, and these results came back negative. No official or homeless person at the site has tested positive. </p><p>5. The closure of the Strandfontein Temporary Emergency Shelter, and the decommissioning process will proceed as originally planned by the City of Cape Town. Regulation 11 D (1) of the National Disaster Management Act, which compelled the state to evacuate homeless persons to a place of shelter has been removed.</p><p>6. All City employees who test positive for COVID-19 are advised on treatment and quarantine measures. This measure applies across the board, to all affected staff. The same applies to close contacts who are requested to remain in self-quarantine at home for a period of 14 days, and are referred for testing should they show any symptoms. These measures are also applicable to staff within the Safety and Security Directorate.</p><p>7.  No City staff member with symptoms of COVID-19 is allowed to be at work. All City line managers have been advised on the protocol in the case of an employee testing positive for COVID-19.</p><p>8.  Any affected City facilities and assets – these include vehicles – are deep cleansed and sanitised in accordance with health and safety protocols.<br> <br>The City has contingencies in place to ensure that operations and service delivery continue as per normal, as far as possible, while ensuring the health and safety of our staff during this time, as well as the health and safety of the public we serve.<br> <br>All City staff have been issued with the necessary personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves and hand sanitisers. There is support and health and awareness training, and it is compulsory for staff to use hand sanitisers upon entering and leaving facilities. City staff include our colleagues in the Safety and Security cluster.<br> <br>Screening of all homeless persons</p><p>It is further claimed that no homeless persons have been tested for COVID-19. The truth is that every single homeless person was screened at least twice. Everyone was first screened upon entering the site three weeks ago, and then again this week to ensure the ongoing safety of the homeless. A third screening is done for all those who choose to leave the temporary emergency accommodation. </p><p>A small number of individuals failed the initial screening process when they originally entered the site three weeks ago, and were sent for COVID-19 testing and were appropriately accommodated in an isolation tent. All tests came back negative.  </p><p>Support for Homeless Persons </p><p>It is not only irresponsible, but blatantly false of the newspaper to suggest that the homeless were removed without the offer of further assistance. </p><p>The City and NGO partners continue to offer reintegration and reunification for every homeless person at the facility willing to accept this offer. </p><p>Personal assessments were done with every person at the temporary shelter and the City is working with shelter providers to expand available shelter accommodation for those who opted to remain in a shelter after the Strandfontein facility closes. </p><p>Some individuals refused these offers and insisted to be removed from the facility and returned to the areas from where they were originally collected by bus.<br>City under constant unwarranted attacks in these times<br>The City has noticed the continued and unwarranted and unsubstantiated attacks against it during a time when it has constantly ensured compliance with the regulations. It had to defend proceedings instituted in the High Court and the Court was critical of the community’s application in that it in effect sought to evict the homeless persons from the shelter during a pandemic and without citing the homeless persons as respondents in the application and without providing workable alternatives.<br> <br>The City filed a detailed affidavit setting out the medical, health and safety measures currently in place at the shelter, including measures related to social distancing and hygiene protocols mandated in terms of the National State of Disaster declaration in relation to COVID-19.<br> <br>The Court accepted that the City had taken measures based on current knowledge and that the City’s response evidenced an approach based on lessons learned as the pandemic progresses and based on the needs and experiences of the occupants.<br> <br> End</p>2020-05-01T22:00:00ZGP0|#1d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70;L0|#01d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70|City news;GTSet|#62efe227-07aa-45e7-944c-ceebacca891dGP0|#b2c90d9f-c5fb-4e30-a642-051931602428;L0|#0b2c90d9f-c5fb-4e30-a642-051931602428|Homeless people shelters;GTSet|#2e3de6c1-9951-4747-8f53-470629a399bb;GP0|#6eb3cc57-d82f-4faf-bdcd-4ee1029ecc9e;L0|#06eb3cc57-d82f-4faf-bdcd-4ee1029ecc9e|health and safety1

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