Maputo — More than 500 Mozambican mineworkers were screened for the Covid-19 respiratory disease on their return to South Africa at the cross-border Occupational Health Centre set up by the International Organisaton for Migration (IOM), in cooperation with the Mozambican health and labour ministries.
The centre was initially set up to screen miners for tuberculosis, but it is now also being used to check for the symptoms of Covid-19.
In the coming weeks, over 3,000 miners who have been in Mozambique since March because of the pandemic will return to their jobs in South Africa, and will be screened at the IOM centre.
"The first group of workers called to return by the mining companies, will be quarantined in South Africa for 14 days", according to an OIM press release.
Despite a dramatic fall in recent decades of the number of migrant mineworkers in South Africa, the gold and platinum mines still employ about 45,000 migrants, including Mozambicans, and their skills are regarded as essential for the South African mining industry
According to the OIM, the agreement between Mozambique and South Africa, which seeks to allow a controlled flow of migrant workers across the border, including measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, is an example of what can be done when governments are encouraged to discuss and plan jointly the resumption of cross-border mobility.
The OIM expects that soon thousands more migrant workers, including those in the agricultural sectors, who have contracts in South Africa, will return to their jobs.
The OIM centre was established in 2018 with funding from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States, and is currently supported by the World Bank. In addition to screening for tuberculosis, the centre also offers voluntary HIV tests, and tests for diabetes and high blood pressure.
"This centre is essential to protect the health of the mineworkers and their communities", according to a specialist doctor in occupational health, Vania Chongo-Faruk. "The services provided included a health check-up on leaving Mozambique and on returning."
The centre ensures that the miners and other migrant workers "receive the care they need to continue their work and to visit their families safely", she said.
Since early June, facilitators trained by the OIM have interacted with around 7,500 cross-border truck drivers, transmitting messages in local languages on how to prevent Covid-19, stressing such key practices as frequent hand washing and social distancing.