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Shop owners refuse prison workers entry over Covid-19 fears

Prison workers are being shut out of stores in the Eastern Cape out of fear that they may be carriers of the coronavirus.
Prison workers are being shut out of stores in the Eastern Cape out of fear that they may be carriers of the coronavirus.
Image: File photo.

With coronavirus infections and the death toll due to the respiratory disease  on the increase in prisons, the department of correctional services says its employees are being ostracised by the community.

Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said some correctional service employees were being denied entry to certain shops in the Eastern Cape if they are in uniform.

“The situation is getting unpalatable, especially in the Eastern Cape, as DCS officials are subjected to inhumane treatment when visiting shops and other public places. This is abhorrent conduct of the worst form and has no place in the collective efforts of preventing the spread of coronavirus,” Nxumalo said.

“We have noted with dismay behaviour of some shop owners who have denied our officials access to their outlet, even worse, members of the community are pointing fingers at the brown uniform and stigmatising our officials,” he added.

Nxumalo described the situation as “demoralising” especially because the department’s employees were delivering an essential service.

In the Eastern Cape the deaths of two prisoners who had contracted the virus were reported on Tuesday.

The department condemned the behaviour, adding that with all the information distributed about the virus, there was no excuse for stigmatisation.

“The department of health and other partners continue to demystify confusion, anxiety and fear among the public. Attempts to associate Covid-19 to a particular workforce can only reverse the gains the country has achieved thus far,” Nxumalo said.

The Eastern Cape has recorded 100 infections in its prisons. Thirty-five of those infected were prison officials and 65 were inmates. The province however, said it was seeing a high recovery rate. Fifty-eight recoveries had been recorded.

“Such treatment is negatively affecting our officials who render an essential service. It is demoralising and unhealthy to a workforce that has to render corrections during this trying time. We condemn such behaviour in the strongest possible terms and urge the public to desist from practising behaviour that undermines all efforts in the fight against Covid-19.”

Nationally, a  total of 165 infections have been reported within the correctional services sector. The breakdown for the other provinces is:

  • The Western Cape had 49 confirmed cases of officials and three of inmates, with one “death under investigation”;
  • in Limpopo there were two cases of officials with the respiratory illness, one of whom had recovered;
  • in Gauteng, three officials and eight inmates were confirmed as having contracted the disease; and
  • at the head office in Pretoria, one official contracted Covid-19 and has recovered.


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