Covid-19 trucker's route revealed

The infected trucker has also disputed health ministry claims that he and a colleague 'escaped' from quarantine, while confirming he had visited the Walvis Bay Standard Bank branch to organise a payment holiday.

26 May 2020 | Health

OGONE TLHAGE &

LEANDRA LOUW

WALVIS BAY



A trucker who was confirmed as Namibia's 21st Covid-19 patient over the weekend, stopped in Gobabis, Windhoek, Okahandja and Karibib, before arriving in the coastal town on 12 May, where he went to a bank, Namibian Sun can reveal.

The 47-year-old, who works for FP du Toit Transport, was en route from South Africa to Namibia via Botswana.

By late yesterday afternoon South Africa had reported 22 583 Covid-19 cases, 429 deaths and 11 100 recoveries.

According to Walvis Bay Urban Constituency councillor, Knowledge Ipinge, besides entering the country through the Buitepos border post on 8 May, the truck driver also stopped at OK Foods in Gobabis and the FP du Toit Transport depot in Windhoek on the same day.





He then departed from Windhoek on 11 May and visited OK Foods in Okahandja and the Navachab gold mine and Wesbank depot in Karibib.

On 12 May the trucker, according to Ipinge, visited the Wesbank offices at Walvis Bay and used the public ablution facilities and kitchen, before going to Standard Bank. Ipinge yesterday 'ordered' the temporary closure of the banking branch with immediate effect for 14 days. He also requested the handing over of the bank's Covid-19 business continuity plan, video footage taken by the bank between 08:30 and 12:00 on 12 May and a list of employees and members of the public who were at the branch during the times in question.



Quarantine escape denied

The truck driver over the weekend disputed that he and another trucker, fingered by health minister Kalumbi Shangula for an escape from the Walvis Bay truck port quarantine facility, were the culprits.

They are accused of flouting the state of emergency regulations.

They were, in fact, granted permission to leave the facility earlier in the day by their employer, they said.

This comes amidst public furore that the two placed the safety of Walvis Bay residents at risk after they returned from Zambia and South Africa respectively.

The two were subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

They claimed that two other truck drivers escaped prior to their alleged incident and that the blame is being heaped on them instead.



Fired

The duo, who have since been fired, also say their employer, FP Du Toit Transport, had given them permission to visit their respective banks after slashing their salaries by 50% before their alleged transgression.

“When I got to the offices, we were told we would get paid half, as we had been out of the country. We were told we can go to the bank and arrange for payment holidays.

“I got our car from my wife and went to the bank. In the evening, my wife came to collect the vehicle after I sanitised it.

“We went jogging and received a call saying that health officers were at the depot looking for us. We ran back and the health inspectors asked if we had gone home to our families, to which we said no.

“They went to our homes and interviewed our relatives, who also confirmed that they had not seen us since our return,” they added.

The two have been employed at FP Du Toit Transport for three and six years respectively.



Disappointed

“We are very disappointed in the way they handled us. We had to buy our own food, where we spent as much as N$250 a day.

“The company did not give us any incentive while we were quarantined. There were times we had to pee in bottles as well, since the bathroom gets locked at night by one of the guards.”

Ipinge said his office has been observing these developments.



'Close eye'

“My office has been keeping a close eye to the developments related to these truck drivers, since they were unfairly dismissed by FP du Toit Transport last week Wednesday. Their unfair dismissal stems from when the two truck drivers were allowed to go to the bank as well as for a jog in the vicinity of the truck port area,” he said.

Ipinge said his office was waiting on the company's coronavirus action response plan.



Shangula hits back

Shangula denied the version of events shared by the two truckers and said the government provided quarantine facilities.

“Those drivers were in state quarantine. It cannot be that the company quarantined them. That story is not correct,” Shangula said.

FP Du Toit CEO Stephan Terblanche did not comment at the time of going to press.

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