Number of inmates in East London prison with Covid-19 jumps to 53

Number of inmates testing positive for Covid-19 at East London Correctional Centre has shot up.
Number of inmates testing positive for Covid-19 at East London Correctional Centre has shot up.
Image: 123RF/Stockstudio44

The number of inmates to test positive for Covid-19 at the East London prison has shot up to 53.

The correctional services department (DCS) has confirmed a huge spike in infected inmates and officials. It had that the number of cases at the correctional centre had increased by 49 in just two days.

There are currently 78 confirmed cases — 53 of them inmates and 25 are officials from the prison or at the head office.

Just two days ago, the department reported 26 cases and only three of them were inmates.

The latest stats were revealed by DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.

Nationwide, the latest Covid-19 stats show that 2,272 people have tested positive for the virus. The Eastern Cape has 104 cases, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“As the number of infected people increases in correctional services, the containment and treatment pillar of the disaster management response strategy of the department has been activated.

“This is looking at the rapid identification of laboratory-confirmed cases, the isolation of those who test positive and management of the pandemic within our centres,” said Nxumalo.

He said health care teams were on site rendering care services to distress cases and monitoring those likely to develop acute respiratory challenges. 

“Working together with the department of health, and provinces, DCS has a list of hospitals and health care centres where inmates could be transferred in case they require admissions. Appropriate safe escorts will be employed to limit the risk for officials and hospitals receiving inmates in need of care. 

“Disinfection of the environment at East London Correctional Centre is under way. This is to prevent contamination of surfaces and inanimate objects,” said Nxumalo.  

He said other measures employed by the department included splitting “out-of-cell time” for the distribution of food. 

“This will mean that units or wings are divided to avoid concentration of inmates and officials in open spaces. This measure does not abolish access to open air which is mandatory for inmates. 

“Visits will remain restricted and the DCS has since issued a circular advising correctional centres to increase the limit on the amount that inmates are allowed to buy items for from centre tuck-shops,” he said.

He said the department has also procured mobile quarantine sites that will assist with isolation cases in addition to centres already identified and prepared for this purpose across all provinces.