The Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) says it is becoming increasingly concerned by the growing number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa.
"While the World Health Organisation [WHO] has declared the coronavirus a pandemic, South Africa has 17 confirmed cases so far and it seems the virus is gaining momentum in the country," its spokesperson, Kevin Halama, said in a statement on Thursday.
"Hospersa has called on the government to increase efforts to empower health workers, especially frontline workers in clinics and hospitals with the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to battle this virus," Halama added.
This after the national Department of Health announced in a statement on Thursday morning that there were four more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.
On Wednesday, the WHO declared the global outbreak - which originated in Wuhan, China - a pandemic.
The union, which organises in both the public and private healthcare sectors as well as in tourism organisations (SANParks and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), has called on its members to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
It is also asked the department to provide protective clothing and training to health workers who will attend to suspected and confirmed cases.
"We are all aware of the many challenges faced by the Department of Health, especially at public health facilities where poor infrastructure, lack of medication, overcrowding in wards and staff shortages have become the face of the department.
"A virus of this nature needs all of us to be active citizens to prevent an even bigger outbreak which could all but collapse the already depleted public healthcare system," Halama said.
The union demanded that all health workers be equipped with the knowledge and necessary information toolkits to deal with the deadly virus.
"Private health organisations, which in most instances are profit-driven, should also take into cognisance the threat of a bigger outbreak to a country like ours and should assist the government with preventative measures," Halama said.
The union added it supported its affiliate, the Federation of Unions of South Africa's call to Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi to lead the way in mobilising for a special Unemployment Insurance Fund dispensation for workers affected by the coronavirus.
"We support this call as many of our members in hospitals and clinics are at the coal face of the virus and are more likely to contract it when they come into contact with suspected and confirmed cases.
"Hospersa will continue supporting its members in communicating preventative measures through its communication platforms.
"The union will also escalate all concerns and shortcomings brought forward by its members to the relevant Department of Health structures at provincial and national level to ensure health workers do not end up as unnecessary casualties in the fight against this deadly outbreak," Halama said.