The kick-off of a Covid-19 vaccination drive for farmworkers in Limpopo has been welcomed by agricultural sector.
The provincial health MEC Phophi Ramathuba confirmed that workers in the Mogalakwena Local Municipality would soon get the coronavirus jab.
These workers, based in Mokopane (previously known as Potgietersrus), are the first agricultural workers in the country to be specifically included in the vaccine rollout programme.
“I’m quite excited that farmworkers in Limpopo are now going to be prioritised for the vaccine as well,” says Agri Limpopo chief executive Deidré Carter.
“We are very glad about that. Farmers can’t only be seen as essential when it comes to supplying food. They also need to be seen and classified as essential workers.”
However, Carter is disappointed that the health department did not communicate their plans with agricultural role players.
“It’s just a pity that we are not being communicated to about these things. We have to read about it in the media. Hopefully that registration date [for farmworkers] comes through quickly,” she says.
While Limpopo farmworkers are being prioritised, Ramathuba has indicated that it will still be a while before others in the agricultural sector will get the Covid-19 vaccine. This excludes those aged 50 and above, as well as healthcare, education and police workers who already qualify for the vaccine.
What about rural schools?
Meanwhile, Limpopo farmers are raising alarm on rural schools not having sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitisers.
This, as the province finds itself in the midst of a third wave of Covid-19 infections. Many learners and teachers have also tested positive for the deadly virus.
“I must say, from the farmers’ side they are very isolated,” says Carter. “But what is concerning is that when you look at rural schools, they do not have [PPE] and sanitisers. I have had farmers contact me about masks and sanitisers [for schools].”
Earlier this week, Ramathuba confirmed that Limpopo was seeing more children being infected. Seventy-six Covid-19 cases of children younger than nine was reported while 638 people aged 15 to 34 was also infected.
“We can feel the pressure. I analysed numbers… and the Delta variant is here. We even have babies who tested positive, new-born babies,” says Ramathuba.
Protecting kids against Covid-19
According to Carter, learners in these rural and farming schools mostly come from families who do not even know where their next meal will come from.
“Now, they have to worry about masks and other personal protective equipment [to protect them against Covid-19].”
Limpopo education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene tells Food For Mzansi that schools in the province received money to buy the necessary personal protective equipment.
“[Plus, they were] directed through a circular to procure their own sanitisers, thermometers and masks should a need arise,” she says.
Chuene adds that at the beginning of the year, schools were provided with masks meant for grade R learners.
This was done on the understanding that other grades received masks last year. “Wear and tear is minimal since they have only been coming to school on selected days,” Chuene says.
“Small schools, who might struggle with procurement, have an option of requesting assistance from the district office because we still have back-up supplies for such instances.”
Chuene adds that it remains the responsibility of schools to procure or request further assistance if they are struggling.