THERE is now a growing number of calls from residents living within the vicinity of SolTuna Company facility in Noro, Western Province, for the company to conduct swabbing on its employees.
A group of residents in Noro, Munda and Vona Vona Lagoon made the call in light of increasing cases of flu-like symptoms among SolTuna employees.
The residents said the employees could be spreading the virus among people without knowing it because they were never swabbed or tested for COVID-19.
They said as one of the biggest revenue contributors to the country’s economy, all employees should be swabbed and tested negative before accessing company facilities.
The company in a statement last month stated that all its workers will continue to work under strict COVID-19 standard measures and protocols to ensure production is not disrupted.
The company said their sister canneries in Ecuador and Colombia have been working with COVID in their communities for almost two years.
“We are following the same procedures to protect our employees at work.
“Any SolTuna employee who tests positive will stay at home for 10 days and be free of symptoms before being allowed to return to work,” the statement said.
“This way the cannery will continue to be a safe place to work.”
The statement further added that SolTuna had been preparing for the COVID outbreak for the past two years and the company is confident that they can operate safely.
However, the concerned residents said the fact that the company is reluctant to have its workers, especially those in the fish factory, swabbed and tested is questionable.
“…are they afraid that the company will be forced to shut them down if a majority of its employees are tested positive for COVID-19?
“Currently only the ones feeling sick or unwell are swabbed but from our investigation there are many staff with flu-like symptoms.
“The fact that there is no mass swabbing carried out for the whole workers in the fish factory means there is a very high possibility that most of them are carrying the virus and this is a big threat for us the people in Noro and other communities,” a concerned resident said.
An employee said with the number of employees working in the factor, social distancing is not really practiced.
“The place is crowed and workers are breaking protocols despite the COVID-19 health measures,” the employee said.
The concerned residents said the only way to safeguard employees, the Noro public and surrounding communities is to ensure all employees are swabbed and tested for COVID-19 frequently.
“This is because many of the workers usually go back to their places in Munda, Rawaki and other surrounding communities in Vona Vona Lagoon after their work each every day,” another concerned resident said.
Another concerned resident said there should also be an independent health team stationed at Noro to ensure results from swabs collected for COVID-19 are correct.
“This health team must provide correct and reliable information about the swab test results to the Ministry of Health and Medical Service (MHMS) database,” he said.
SolTuna Company is the biggest tuna processing company in the country and employs around 3000 workers 64 per cent of whom are women.
By ULUTAH GINA & LACHLAN EDDIE