Patricia de Lille's plan to engage 20 400 workers to help fight the coronavirus

Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille. (Jan Gerber, News24)
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille. (Jan Gerber, News24)

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is assisting the Department of Health by contracting non-profit organisations (NPOs) to recruit an additional 20 400 workers in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The workers will be drawn from the expanded public works programme (EPWP).

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille told media in Parliament on Tuesday that 316 NPOs have been identified to recruit the workers.

The NPOs will also manage the programme to train the workers. 

The workers will be expected to do specific tasks, such as distribute sanitisers and soap, educate people on proper hygiene, show people without access to hand washing facilities how to make a tippy tap, disinfect high risk areas and conduct clean-up campaigns.

A tippy tap is a hands-free device for hand washing, designed especially for rural areas where there is no running water.

"They will then fall under the category of essential workers and the health department will ensure their exemption as 20 400 essential workers," De Lille said.

Training of the workers will begin as soon as DPWI gets the green light from the health department.

De Lille said she is also compiling a directive that the current cohort of around 800 000 EPWP workers will be paid during the lockdown.

"This will ensure there is no negative impact on these individuals financially during the lockdown."

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The minister also updated the media on the work being done to identify state-owned and private facilities which could be used as possible quarantine sites.

She said, so far, 52 properties, 31 in DPWI's custodianship, have been identified. They still need to be inspected and approved for use by the health department.

De Lille said the response from the private sector to provide quarantine sites had been overwhelming.

A total of 16 737 beds across the public and private sector had been identified, but was subject to health department inspection to see whether they met a set of strict criteria.

"Once these checks have been done, we will inform the private sector of which properties we will use as quarantine sites."

Last week, De Lille announced her department had contracted a company to replace around 40 kilometres of fencing on both sides of the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

She said the work was well under way and eight teams had been deployed to each replace 5kms of fencing.

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