Union up in arms over Corona rates in SA prisons

Johannesburg – Civil Rights Union (Popcru) is up in arms over the increasing number of COVID- 19 infections at SA’s prisons.

There are currently 9 097 positively identified COVID-19 cases.

Of these cases 5 815 are employees and 3 282 are inmates.

The highest number of infections is in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng.

Though it has had a 88% recovery rate, they still have a total of 859 active cases, comprising 294 inmates and 565 officials. It has had a total of 171 deaths since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

One hundred and eleven of these deaths were officials while 60 were inmates.

Most of these deaths occurred in Gauteng – 24 in total, followed by 10 in the Eastern Cape, nine in the Western Cape, six in Kwa Zulu Natal, six in the Free State and Northern Cape, and a total of five people in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.

Richard Mamabolo, Popcru spokesperson, said these numbers are unacceptable and could have been avoided.

He believed that the statistics could also be downplayed as prisons are overcrowded.

He said the union had an agreement with the Department of Correctional Services and national commissioner Arthur Fraser that there would only be a 50% staff compliment, but officials were asked to go back to work in full last month.

Mamabolo said: “Our members have also complained that when they feel sick and have to self-isolate they are told it will be leave without pay. So, they go back to work unwell. This then leads to inmates being exposed to the virus. These are not measures that we agreed upon.

And the lack of dedication from Mr Fraser has compromised many lives.

Meetings set up with him and the steering committee to iron out a way forward to curb infections keep being postponed,” he said.

Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said that infection prevention control measures are being ramped up at all management areas across the country, with specific directives to push for the continued sanitisation of reception areas, cells, offices, vehicles and ablution facilities.

“Our COVID-19 strategy will continue to be applied, paying attention to prevention measures, containment and treatment so that we can save lives and better protect every individual within our premises. The department has sufficient supply of personal protective equipment and the stock levels are being monitored daily. Behavioural change and adaptation by officials, inmates and those residing within our premises will go a long way in preventing new infections,” said Nxumalo.

Read more: SA health workers to recieve first doses of vaccines by February

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