JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Minerals Council South Africa health head Dr Thuthula Balfour on Thursday expressed deep sadness at the loss of 28 colleagues to Covid-19 and stated that research was being conducted to understand what makes people particularly vulnerable to the pandemic and what can be done to prevent the deaths.
“While the mortality rate in the mining industry is lower than the rest of the country, we recognise that we’re only seeing the initial impact of the pandemic in some regions and that it is likely that mining operations will be affected similarly to the regions in which we operate.
“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of our colleagues in mining and also beyond and as health-care professionals in the industry we’re trying to understand what makes people particularly vulnerable and what we can do to prevent the deaths,” Balfour said at the council’s weekly virtual Covid media conference in which Mining Weekly participated.
Taking the need for research into consideration, the CEO Zero Harm Forum had reallocated research funding to focus on three Covid-19 related areas very early on in the process. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
The three research projects currently underway relate to understanding the nature of Covid-19, changing behaviours to stop the spread of the virus and a geographic information mapping system to enhance decision-making.
Collaboration was taking place with the Aurum Institute to conduct an analysis of the cases and deaths suffered until June 20. This analysis would improve and accelerate learnings in support of the Minerals Council’s Covid-19 response and surveillance.
The case files of up to 2 000 individuals who had tested positive across the mining industry would be reviewed to characterise the cases and determine similarities between different cases and possible areas of transmission and high risk.
The University of South Africa had also been commissioned to conduct a study into the effectiveness of all the control measures in place, whether these were achieving the intended objectives and what improvements were required.
SEVENTY PER CENT OF WORKFORCE BACK AT WORK
Seventy per cent of the workforce has returned, totalling 295 919. Screening prior to each shift is continuing and of the 23 374 tests that have been conducted, 3 519 have tested positive for Covid-19.
The industry’s testing rate of 5.5% continues to be considerably higher than the national average of 3.28% and the global average of 3.36%, and substantially higher than the areas in which the testing of mineworkers takes place.
Fifty-six per cent of those who tested positive, numbering 1 963, have recovered and testing delays are not excessive, with 1 442 tests pending.
Given that Covid is a geographic disease, a geographical information system is being developed to inform decisions and mitigate the risks associated with transmission.
“Ultimately, the research and work we are currently undertaking will be important to mining and beyond, adding to the fundamental knowledge of the disease and how to deal with it,” said Balfour.