COVID-19 outbreak in prisons remains a growing concern
Correctional Services has recorded close to 400 COVID-19 cases in prisons, with inmates and officials infected.
The highly-infectious coronavirus has, since breaking out in South Africa, thrived in the country’s overcrowded correctional facilities.
As of Saturday 16 May, the Department of Correctional Services has recorded 364 cases of the deadly virus, with 92 recoveries and four deaths.
Social distancing not being adhered to in SA prisons
Infections have impacted both inmates and prison officials, with one case reported in the department’s head office.
The South African Sentenced and Awaiting Trial Prisoners Organisation (Sasapo) has expressed concern at the growing numbers in prisons.
Accounting for over half of the positive cases in the department is the Eastern Cape, where the first infections in SA prisons were reported, with one facility in East London recording a surge in numbers, according to Sasapo’s Phindile Zweni.
“Very concerning we’ve just received reliable information yesterday that at East London alone, West Bank prison, the positive or tested cases and isolated people or inmates is about 200 plus/minus as from Friday. One inmate was rushed to hospital. At this stage, we don’t know whether he’s still alive or what. Hoping that he is still …I do think that this is going to escalate in all the other prisons as well because social distancing is not at all being adhered to,” says Zweni.Phindile Zweni, Sasapo
Preventative and control measures in prisons
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier in the year urged governments to initiate measures to control the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
The South African government responded to this by announcing that 19 000 “low-risk” prisoners would be released on parole to aid officials in controlling the spread of the virus.
The inmates due for early release exclude those convicted of serious crimes such as murder, armed robbery and rape.
A total of 209 prisoners have been infected with the coronavirus, with two deaths reported, while 155 officials have contracted the virus, with the death toll also at two.
South Africa currently has 14 355 COVID-19 cases, with the total number of deaths at 261, and recoveries at 6 478.