“NO ONE is the master of Covid-19.”

These were the words of Joburg Emergency Services strategic support director, Nomathemba Mtshali.

She was vaccinated at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto in March. She said she didn’t hesitate to get the jab as she wanted to encourage her team to do the same. She said she suffered mild side effects for two days.

“I don’t believe this virus is man made, and I don’t think it will go away any time soon. People need to get vaccinated to minimise deaths,” said Mtshali.

“Covid-19 has taught us a number of lessons. Who thought it was possible to have so many people working from home? We have learnt to think outside the box.”

Mtshali’s department provides critical support to emergency services, including communication and business planning. She said the virus came as a surprise and presented many challenges.

“We had to provide a safe environment and make PPEs available immediately. It was also critical to ensure staff understood the impact of the virus, and that they treated every patient as a possible Covid-19 case to ensure safety,” she said.

Although the city has more than 30 fire stations, service delivery was affected in some areas.

“Fire stations had to be closed down for decontamination when a staff member tested positive,” she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 224 emergency services staff have tested positive for the virus and 12 have lost their lives.

“Their deaths took a toll on me but I could not break down. I had to keep my head up and encourage staff to screen and test,” she said.

“Vaccines are not new to the country and I encourage the public to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Taking a vaccine is much better than dying of Covid-19.”