Platinum group metals mining company Implats on Saturday confirmed that a cluster of positive Covid-19 cases had been detected in and around its Marula operation in Limpopo province following stringent and comprehensive screening, testing and tracing protocols.
The JSE-listed company said it had identified 19 positive cases, all of them asymptomatic – meaning the individuals tested exhibited no apparent coronavirus symptoms.
Of these cases, 14 were identified as the result of proactive testing of employees returning to work, the company said in a media release to Mining Weekly.
None of these employees had started work at the mine. Of the remaining five, one case was identified as a primary contact and the remaining four were identified through contact tracing.
Two of the active cases had recently returned from the Eastern Cape. Significantly, 17 of the confirmed cases reside locally, suggesting the prevalence of Covid-19 among local communities is far higher than the company’s initial estimates had indicated.
As such, the rigorous screening and testing protocols at Marula had proved effective in quickly identifying cases, enabling the group to isolate affected employees rapidly to prevent wider infection on the mine.
It was also confirmed that these cases included a local health provider and four mine-employed health providers working at the mine clinic.
This facility was immediately closed for sterilisation and testing of medical staff and all primary contacts.
Every person who tested positive was immediately isolated to prevent the further spread of the virus and has been isolated at the mine’s isolation site, at government designated facilities or at home as per government protocols.
Department of Health officials visited patients at the quarantine site on May 16.
Implats stated that Marula, which currently worked rotational shift cycles, with two teams alternating a week at work and a week off, would not recall workers due to report for duty next week, to enable the company first to complete all relevant health and safety protocols, including: verifying test results, sanitising identified high-risk areas, conducting further contact tracing and testing procedures as required, and placing people in isolation and quarantine based on the outcome of the screening and testing results.
Identifying people who might have been the source of the infections or been in contact with affected individuals was critically important, Implats said, and the group was working closely with the public healthcare authorities on tracing protocols to identify all those who might have come into close contact with the affected employees. All Marula employees and contractors were complying with the relevant protocols as instituted by government.
Implats said that is was making the appropriate support and resources available to all its affected colleagues.
Implats CEO Nico Muller said he fully supported the decisive action taken by government to help mitigate the health, labour market and economic impacts of the coronavirus.
“We continue to comply with the government and industry standard operating procedures related to Covid-19, as well as our own initiatives to manage this virus. Promoting best practice Covid-19 health guidelines in our workplace, at home and in the community is a priority,” Muller said, adding that any Covid-19 infection was a reminder to every citizen to continue practising appropriate physical distancing and the simple but essential hygiene and infection mitigation measures.
Muller thanked medical and other employees for acting swiftly to identify and isolate the infected individuals.
“We’re well prepared to deal with employees that have tested positive and will be deploying all the resources available to us to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people and host communities. We wish our infected employees a speedy recovery and will continue to support them and their families through these anxious times,” he added.