Three more Western Cape police stations had to “relocate” their services for Covid-19 decontamination, leaving the SA Policing Union (Sapu) worried about the safety of its members.
“It’s frightening,” said Sapu spokesperson Oscar Skommere.
The affected police stations are in Phillipi East, Cape Town Central and Lentegeur.
It takes 48 hours for the decontamination, so Phillipi East operated from the nearby Vuyiseka High School and Cape Town Central operated at the cluster office behind the police station. Lentegeur had to operate from a mobile unit in front of the police station.
“Cape Town Central and Phillipi East have since started operating from their respective police stations today as the decontamination process was completed,” said Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa.
The increased cases and “decontaminations” are worrying for Sapu, which believes that protocols are not being followed at all police stations.
Skommere cited the sanitation protocols of station vehicles when shifts change.
“It goes out at 06:00, it comes back at 18:00. Who checks that it has been sanitised?”
He was also worried about available personal protective equipment, saying officers in some regions are provided with gloves but no mask, or a mask with no gloves.
“When they do searches, they touch vehicles and individuals. When they knock off they go home with the same uniform,” he said.
“They have families. And their families have families,” said Skommere.
The Western Cape has become the new virus epicentre in the country, overtaking Gauteng. By Monday night, there were 1,737 positive cases in the province out of the 4,793 cases nationally. There are 90 deaths in the country.
Skommere said police officers were worried that they had a high risk of contracting the virus because they don’t know anything about the background of the person they are searching or arresting, and because all do not have full protective gear yet.
Other police stations which have had Covid-19 cases detected in their midst include Hermanus, Athlone and Belhar.
Skommere even questioned the size of the delegations that accompany Police Minister Bheki Cele and his commissioners and other government officials, saying these could be creating gatherings unintentionally.
The SA Police Service Facebook page reported on 26 April that 97 people were arrested during a massive operation in Tshwane East which Cele and Gauteng government officials attended.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters noted that that the arrests were not all at one location, and the high number included two taxiloads of people.
She said it was part of Cele’s responsibilities to go out to check compliance and to make sure lockdown rules were adhered to and enforced.
Sapu said it hopes to meet with Cele and the ministry to discuss the prevailing issues.