South African Lockdown Prompts Eskom to Scale Back Workforce

(Bloomberg) --

South Africa’s state power utility told part of its workforce to stay home and delayed some maintenance as demand for electricity plummeted due to a national lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Power demand dropped by more than 6,000 megawatts, and is expected to decline further during the 21-day lockdown that began at midnight on Thursday, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said in a statement. The company will focus on carrying out short-term maintenance, while some comprehensive repairs have been deferred.

South African Lockdown Prompts Eskom to Scale Back Workforce

Eskom, which provide about 95% of the country’s power, has been forced to implement controlled blackouts over recent months due to breakdowns at its power stations. While lower demand from factories and mines gives it a reprieve of sorts, delays in plant overhauls will leave it worse off when the impact of coronavirus eventually eases.

The utility has designated emergency task teams that will continue working during the lockdown, which is being enforced by the military and the police.

Those employees who volunteered to continue working will be isolated in disinfected quarters and their health closely monitored, the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents about a third of the utility’s employees, said in a statement.

“This virus is not safe for anyone, doctors or soldiers,” Vusi Manana, a NUM shop steward, said by phone before the lockdown. “However, our members realize they’re part of an essential service. The nation will still need electricity.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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