It’s time to restrict movement of people across provincial borders

Some of the 200 migrant farmworkers from the Western Cape are being quarantined at FIsh River Resort. File picture
Some of the 200 migrant farmworkers from the Western Cape are being quarantined at FIsh River Resort. File picture
Image: Karen van Rooyen

Life’s a beach, the old saying goes.

And for one group of people, Covid-19 has presented the opportunity to breathe life into the proverb.

We are talking here about the 200 farmworkers who have been forced into quarantine in the Eastern Cape.

While quarantined, they have been enjoying the beach at Mpekweni Resort between Port Alfred and East London, forcing officials to call in police to control them.

HeraldLIVE reported on Friday how the migrant farmworkers — from Ceres in the Boland region — arrived in the Eastern Cape recently.

Given the Western Cape’s high number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, it was decided to quarantine them here, at resorts and hotels around the province — at a cost of nearly R1m. Up until that point, the cost was sitting at R600,000.

“Our bill spiked when farmworkers from Ceres in the Western Cape entered the province, some with illegal permits,” public works department head Thandolwethu Manda told HeraldLIVE.

“Because of the high number of cases in the Western Cape, we couldn’t as the Eastern Cape government simply let them go without having quarantined them and ensuring everyone’s safety.

“We started seeing a spike in our budget during the past week and we’ve now spent a total of R1.6m.”

That’s R1.6m from the Eastern Cape’s purse.

And, let’s face it, the province has not been doing the best job in handling Covid-19: why else would health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize see it fit to send in the cavalry?

While we understand the need now to contain the spread after the farmworkers’ arrival in the province, perhaps better measures should have been in place long before they even left the Western Cape.

In fact, taking into consideration the stops there would have been along their trek, exposing themselves and others to infection, should they even have left at all?

These are unusual times and perhaps new regulations should be put in place to restrict the movement of large swarms of people across provincial borders, in particular those who, as in this case, seem to be travelling together in groups from specific areas — especially areas known to be hotspots for the virus.

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