South African Government

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Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize on protection and safety of persons with disabilities at post office queues

14 Jan 2021

Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize has noted with concern images circulating on social media of queues at Post Offices in which there is no sign of social distancing, lack of personal protection equipment (PPEs), and irresponsible behaviour (close interactions, sharing of food, etc.).

Deputy Minister is deeply concerned that amongst these images circulating are those of disabled children who are being put at risk due to lack of social distancing, as well as not using face masks.

“Many of these children with disabilities have underlying conditions and compromised immune systems, and as such, find themselves at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and suffering from health complications as a result, that can even lead to loss of life,” said Professor Mkhize.

With queues of people linked to grant collection, with no social distancing, level of exposure and infection rates can spike. Children, and especially those with disabilities are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. For parents and caregivers collecting disability grants and care dependency grants, the safety of the child must always be the apex priority. COVID-19 protocols must always apply, even when in a queue. The department wishes to remind citizens that not using a mask is a criminal offence.

“South Africa subscribes to a number of international instruments like the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and our own Children’s Act (Act 38 of 2005, as amended). Government and civil society must adhere to these treaties and instruments in protecting our children from any harm,” added Professor Mkhize.

The department calls on responsible departments to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are adhered to, as even a queue with no social distancing can be considered a ‘super-spreader’ event and can place an even bigger strain on our health system. Managers at Post Offices should take extra precautions to ensure COVID-19 protocols are in place and must ensure compliance.

Government interventions were amplified when President Cyril Ramaphosa heeded the call to assist persons with disabilities by announcing an increase in the amounts of a number of grants, which included that of persons with disabilities. The increase in cash transfers to those in need was also aimed at alleviating food insecurity and relieve social distress caused by the lockdown. We therefore call on all citizens to be responsible when accessing these grants, by adhering to all COVID-19 protocols.

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