South African public sector union Nehawu has withdrawn a court case against the government over shortages of protective gear for frontline health workers treating coronavirus patients after meeting the health minister, the union said late on Wednesday.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, the country’s main health workers’ union with around a quarter of a million members, launched the case to try to force the government to ensure adequate supplies of vital equipment such as masks and gloves.
A global scarcity of protective equipment for nurses, doctors, porters and other health workers is a big obstacle to attempts to curb death tolls, elsewhere in Africa and on other continents.
“We have taken a decision to discontinue with the legal course of action since there is now a commitment to address our concerns,” the union said in a statement.
Among commitments from government was that no worker would be forced or intimidated to work without proper protection, and that stocks of masks, gloves and goggles should be scrutinised to determine whether all frontline workers were catered for, Nehawu said.
A health ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
South Africa has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa, at 1 845 with 18 deaths, but that number is expected to rise as the government embarks on a mass testing drive.