The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has called on government to consider the homeless amid the Covid-19 outbreak as they are at high risk of contracting the disease.
The party said it was worried that people who lived in informal settlements and those who were homeless faced a huge risk of exposure to the coronavirus because their homelessness status could become “vectors from which the virus spreads even more broadly than it has already”.
Member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Les Govender said: “As the number of cases of Covid-19 continues to grow, the nation is on edge. But amid all the planning and a growing sense of panic, the impact of the spread of Covid-19 among homeless people is not being widely discussed. It should, however, be of special concern to our government.”
Govender said the living conditions and poor health of the homeless may place them at a higher risk of contracting the disease and even dying from it, “although presently there have been no reported cases among homeless people”.
“Homeless people have less access to health care providers who would order diagnostic testing and, if confirmed, isolate them from others in coordination with local health departments. Without access, ill homeless people may be living on the streets virtually unknown to the health care system and possibly exposing others to the virus.
“Sanitary conditions for people who live on the streets are paltry. Access to clean water and facilities where they can wash up are extremely limited if non-existent. This presents great difficulties since people are being advised to regularly wash their hands. These homeless people are unable to self-quarantine since they don’t have a home and therefore can’t stay in it. The risk of contracting the disease increases and they can also be transmitters of the disease.”
Govender said the IFP called on government to come up with clear strategies on how it intended to educate the homeless and those living in squatter settlements about the virus and what plans were in place to ensure they did not spread the virus once they were infected.
“No one should be deprived of health care in the face of the coronavirus.”
Addressing religious leaders on Thursday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa pointed out that the risk of the virus spreading was greater in poor communities, many of which did not have access to safe and clean drinking water, and who were forced by circumstance to live in close proximity to others.
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)