Correctional services making 'all efforts' to protect staff and prisoners
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola on Monday detailed the Covid-19 statistics in the country's prisons among officials and inmates.
Lamola said there could have been a single death of an inmate in the Western Cape, although the department of health was still investigating whether the death could be classified as being due to Covid-19 or not.
In the Eastern Cape, which is the Covid-19 epicentre for the department with 91 people infected - of which 35 were officials and 56 prisoners - no new deaths occurred. Lamola added that 18 of the 91 had fully recovered.
In the Western Cape, outside the single death still under investigation, there were 49 cases - 46 officials and three inmates.
In Gauteng, home of the the country's most overcrowded prisons, there were only 11 cases as of Monday - eight officials and three inmates.
The minister told a joint meeting of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services and the select committee on security and justice that his department was doing all it could to combat the spread of the virus in the prisons.
Among other interventions, said Lamola, the department had produced no less than 19,000 masks for its staff and inmates.
Moreover, it was in the process of starting to produce its own soap.
All correctional service officials were being screened when they clock in for work on a daily basis, he said.
"Chairperson, you will realise the people affected the most up to now is correctional service officials and because of the screening and practising of procedures, it has minimised the number of inmates that came into contact with the disease," said Lamola.
"We have isolation spaces which are isolation cells and places for quarantine within the various correctional facilities which have now been cleared for this purpose."
The department was not without challenges, however.
Among the difficulties, said the minister, was the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), which he said was not unique to his department nor to SA, "because PPEs are a scarce commodity" worldwide.
The department was also battling with a lack of thermometers for checking people's temperature during screening.
"But I can state that all efforts are put in place to make sure that minimum requirements are there to enable officials to do their job," said Lamola.