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TLU SA got working on the formulation of guidelines on how to handle the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), directly after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a national disaster.

“We want to emphasise that everyone should keep perspective and not go overboard,” says Mr Louis Meintjes, the president of TLU SA. “The coronavirus has the potential to have an enormous negative impact. The danger, however, is that the perception of the possible consequences could cause more damage than the virus itself. The decisions already hold far-reaching economic implications. It could have an even more significant impact on the sustainability of businesses, in future.

“In no way do we want to create the idea that we can ignore the situation and just carry on as normal,” says Mr Meintjes. “Things are not normal, and we should act accordingly.”

The minister of agriculture, Ms Thoko Didiza, on Monday 16 March, called an urgent meeting with all the roleplayer in agriculture to discuss the way forward. All roleplayers had the opportunity to give input and a task team – consisting of the department and organised agriculture – was put in place. TLU SA serves on the task team.

The task team will convene on Thursday 19 March, and will communicate all decisions as they are unlocked.

During the ministerial meeting, the minister confirmed that auctions would continue, for the time being, to ensure the livestock industry doesn’t face any further damages after foot and mouth disease knocked the sector earlier this year. The goal is to protect food security and the agricultural economy.

The success of the government’s emergency measures depends on society’s willingness to implement it. Our members should take further steps to limit the possible damage of the coronavirus.

Workers:

  • Inform workers of the virus and how it spreads;
  • Emphasise the importance of personal hygiene and ensure soap and water is available for them to wash their hands;
  • Discuss the risks of socialising in big groups over weekends, while there is still uncertainty over the momentum of its spread. Explain the benefits of voluntary isolation;
  • Monitor the health of workers and their families;
  • Do long-term planning of rations with a longer shelf life.

Access to farms

  • Strictly apply the farm protocol for access to farms. Persons visiting a farm for whichever reason should wear face masks and properly clean themselves before continuing with the activities of the planned visit;
  • Be alert of criminals abusing the coronavirus to get access to farms under false pretences;
  • Consider using farms as a type of quarantine area, granting only approved access.

Crime

  • Uncertain circumstances can lead to a rise in incidents of crime. You can expect crime to increase when local economies come under pressure, and there is a shortage of products on shelves;
  • Take precautionary measures with protective gear like face masks and gloves when interacting with criminals or making arrests.

“TLU SA will consider added measures as the situation unfolds,” says Mr Meintjes. “The main priority is to protect human lives. The rest must follow.”