Western Cape prison inmate tests positive for COVID-19
Due to overcrowding, prisons are considered volatile hotbeds of infection.
South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has confirmed that an inmate, locked-up in a Western Cape facility, has tested positive for COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread across the country during lockdown, the prison system, considered highly vulnerable due to overcrowding and a subsequent lack of social distancing, has not been spared from the virus’ reach.
On Monday evening, the DCS revealed that the Worcester Correctional Centre had recorded its first case of inmate infection after 16 staff members had tested positive days prior. This brings the total of COVID-19 infections in the Western Cape’s Correctional Services facilities to 21, including four cases attributed to the Warm Bokkeveld Prison in Ceres.
First inmate in the Western Cape to test positive
Correctional Services Spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, reiterated that the department was keeping a close eye on all of its facilities during the nationwide outbreak, implementing both precautionary and swift reactionary measures. Nxumalo said:
“We are monitoring the situation quite closely and still busy with the tracing of direct contacts so that we can prevent any potential spread of the virus and to ensure that those who are inside do get to be protected.
We’re making a call to our officials that they really have to be mindful of their movements outside our premises.”
Provincial Head of the Health Department, Keith Cloete, added that over 60 officials working at the Worcester Correctional Centre had been screened by healthcare professionals – five inmates, ostensibly displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19, had been quarantined in isolation, away from the general prison population.
Eastern Cape, Limpopo prisons struck by COVID-19
Eastern Cape correctional facilities have been hardest hit by the outbreak. The first positive COVID-19 case, within the national prison system, was logged at East London Correctional Centre on 7 April. Since then, confirmed cases in Eastern Cape jails have swollen to 87, with a warder in St Albans Correctional Centre in Port Elizabeth recently testing positive.
In Limpopo, two officials working at the Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. The prison, near Louis Trichardt, employs 600 staff and holds over 3 000 inmates.
Adding to the tally impacting the DCS; a staffer working from the department’s head office in Pretoria recently tested positive for the virus.
Total number of confirmed DCS cases
At the time of publication, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with the Department of Correctional Services stood at 111, with the breakdown as follows:
- Eastern Cape – 87
- Western Cape – 21
- Limpopo – 2
- Head Office – 1