A manufacturing site for pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline in Epping, Cape Town, was ordered to temporarily close by the Department of Labour on Tuesday, after a number of employees tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The department inspected the site on Monday. It ordered that production and operations be put on hold until safety measures improve for the 300 to 400 employees. 

“We’ve issued a prohibition notice to the employer which restricts them from conducting any production or operations on site, that is because they were found to be in contravention of the occupational health and safety act,” said Candice van Reenen, spokesperson for the Department of Labour.

“They did not have a risk assessment in place that spoke to Covid-19 regulations, they did not have adequate sanitizing, they also did not have adequate personal protective equipment for staff.”

Van Reenen said the prohibition notice would remain in place until the company implements the corrective measures. It must also ensure that the salaries of employees are paid for as long as the closure continues.

A spokesperson of GSK confirmed that several employees tested positive for the virus. “At GSK, the welfare of our people is our first priority and we are taking all recommended steps to support these employees at this time, as well as closing our Epping site on a temporary basis,” said the company.

One of the calls for the closure of the site come from the Communist Party, who said GSK employees told them that co-workers had tested positive for the virus and “felt their lives were in danger”. 

According to the party, 73 workers tested positive for the virus at the site.


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