Farm workers exposed to COVID-19

FARM workers have expressed fear of contracting the deadly coronavirus as they were working without protective clothing, while also not observing social distancing.

BY MOSES MATENGA

Agriculture has been classified as an essential service sector and exempted from the 21-day national lockdown that started on March 30.

In Zimbabwe, 10 people have been confirmed to be infected, while one person has since died of coronavirus.

Progressive Agriculture and Allied Industries Workers Union of Zimbabwe general secretary Raymond Sixpence said the farm owners were more worried about production on farms while exposing workers to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The workers in most farms have told us that they are being forced to go to work without adequate protective clothing. Agriculture was initially not regarded as an essential service under the recent statutory instrument until the farmers wrote to the minister.

They are now part of the essential services but the farmers are not adhering to an order to provide protective clothing for the workers,” he said.

“Employers have done nothing to protect the employees against the virus. They don’t have sanitisers, masks or anything and it seems all these farmers simply want their work done and make money, but without considering the health of their workers.

“Workers are taken from towns or other nearby farms and transported in numbers to the workplaces without even social distancing and are forced to work in groups, exposing them to the virus.”

He said they had written to Health minister Obadiah Moyo and his Agriculture counterpart Perrance Shiri.

“People have always complained of protective clothing even way before COVID-19. The workers have always complained that they do not have overalls and safety shoes and to expect them to get COVID-19 protective clothing is most unlikely and their lives are at risk.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, Shiri said: “If there are people doing that, that is wrong. Everyone must make sure people are safe. Farmers must have sanitisers for their workers. If they don’t have, they should make use of soap and find protective masks and that workers should maintain social distances to protect themselves from COVID-19.”

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