Sunday, May 17, 2020

Coronavirus: Newzroom Afrika staffers test positive for Covid-19, prompts more changes at the TV news channel's Linden newsroom including cordoning off sections, one-way corridors and an end to desk swapping.

by Thinus Ferreira

Newzroom Afrika (DStv 405) staffers have been diagnosed positive for the Covid-19 virus and have been quarantined at home while the TV news channel is once again reconfiguring its Johannesburg newsroom, including cordoning off sections through which staffers will no longer be able to walk and making corridors one-way walk-throughs.

The Newzroom Afrika Covid-19 cases in Cape Town underscores how vulnerable South Africa's media workers and reporters are as they continue to try and cover the impact of the unfolding humanitarian, health, economic and societal tragedy as the novel coronavirus spreads in the country and across Africa.

The Newzroom Afrika staffers who've tested positive and who are now in self-isolation come days after the tragic and shocking death on Wednesday morning of Lungile Tom (45) - the etv News, eNuus and eNCA (DStv 403) cameraman who worked at eMedia Investments' Cape Town office - where the building was shuttered for a deep-clean and more than 70 staffers sent home for self-isolation and 14-days quarantine.

Lungile Tom is the first-known South African journalist to die from Covid-19, after the SABC News reporter Ulrich Hendriks based in Kimberley who tested positive for Covid-19 and saw the SABC shutter its office in the Northern Cape province, recovered in April.

The Newzroom Afrika reporter Athi Mtongana revealed that she has tested positive for Covid-19 and shared a Bible-verse on her Twitter account on social media, referencing Isaiah 53: "My results have come back positive. I will recover, no Corona virus formed against us shall prosper. Isaiah 53 'by Christ's wounds we are healed".

Newzroom Afrika that just celebrated its first anniversary since the TV news channel that was commissioned by MultiChoice in 2019 from co-founders Thabile Ngwato and Thokozani Nkosi went on-air on 2 May 2019, didn't respond to an emailed media enquiry on Sunday morning but a response will be added when or if received.

About the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic in South Africa Thabile Ngwato said on the TV news channel's first birthday that "on the business side we have been really prepared".

"As things started to escalate we really worked on a business-continuity plan, that would make sure that we continue to operate and continue to provide our viewers with the content that they need. Especially now."

"We work from a solid plan on the business side. From the content side we make sure that we are live, that we are direct all the time."

Katy Katopodis, Newzroom Africa news director in an internal communique to staffers that TVwithThinus has seen, confirmed that Cape Town colleagues have tested positive for Covid-19, that channel management is checking on them, and that Newzroom Afrika is once again making newsroom changes to try and prevent further Covid-19 cases.

Newzroom Afrika is once again reconfiguring its Johannesburg newsroom set-up that will include cordoning off certain sections ending walk-thoughs, ensuring alternative open desk space between seats, designated desks and an end to desk and seat swapping, and corridors becoming one-way walk-throughs.

Here is the email from Katy Katopodis to Newzroom Afrika staffers:

"Hi all,

As you may all know, some CT colleagues have tested positive for Covid-19.

I have spoken to them and they are resting as much as possible and taking good care of themselves. I am confident that they will be fine and they will get through this difficult time.

We are all here for them. We support them and should they need anything, together with Rebecca in HR we will assist. We will also keep checking on them.  Our thoughts and prayers are with our CT team and we wish them a speedy recovery.

At the same time we are also working on yet another reconfiguration of the newsroom. We will change the desks so that everyone is sitting on every alternate desk.

We will also cordon off certain sections in the newsroom that we cannot walk through. We will have designated desks for people so that we don’t keep swapping. We are also changing the flow of the building - making the corridors one way.

Those who can work from home / remotely have been identified. Wearing masks in the office is non-negotiable and we must please keep them on at all times. We must also ensure that we sanitize and wash hands constantly.

We are also working closely with Morishe and Jayosh to look for even more innovative ways to protect the mics and sanitize the equipment. I hope to have more clarity by tomorrow.

Please don’t hesitate to speak to me, Malebo, Bongiwe or Zain or any of your line managers if you have any questions or concerns.

Our health and safety is our TOP PRIORITY and we must all pull together to ensure that we are safe.

Our health is critical at this time.
Be safe everyone.