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Fear as 118 inmates test positive for Covid-19 at Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria

Isaac Mahlangu Senior reporter
One of the country's largest prisons is facing Covid-19 outbreak after 118 inmates tested positive this week.
One of the country's largest prisons is facing Covid-19 outbreak after 118 inmates tested positive this week.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

There are fears of a Covid-19 outbreak at one of the country's biggest correctional facility after 118 inmates tested positive this week.

The Covid-19 results of the inmates at a section of the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in Pretoria were confirmed on Monday after 231 cell mates were tested.

This has allegedly sparked fears among inmates and prison waders who fear that the spike could soon get out of control. 

Correctional department spokesperson Logan Maistry said: "The department of correctional services can confirm that, in line with Covid-19 protocols, 118 inmates, out of 231 swaps taken, at Central Correctional Facility, Kgosi Mampuru II Management Area, received positive test results for Covid-19 during the afternoon of 10 August 2020, following screening and testing on 6 and 7 August 2020."

Maistry said there had been four inmate deaths since the pandemic started.  "With regards to Kgosi Mampuru II Management Area, as at 12 August  2020, the total number of Covid-19 active inmate cases was 132, which represents 1.77% of the total inmate population. Confirmed cases stand at 146, which is 1.96% of the inmate population," he said. 

Maistry said in line with their Covid-19 protocols, inmates who test positive get isolated from the rest of the population, quarantined and monitored with all affected being decontaminated. However, prisoners associations have accused the department of neglect following the recent 118 new confirmed cases. 

SA Sentenced and Awaiting Trial Prisoners Organisation (Sasapo) chairperson Phindile Zweni has blamed the spike in coronavirus infections to "unnecessary" prison raids in which prisoners are physically searched for contrabands.

"There's no distancing whatsoever, inmates are physically searched and that's how they get infected with Covid-19," Zweni said.

Zweni said the last raid was conducted at the affected section of the Kgosi Mampuru II prison as recent as last week, where inmates were being handled during searches for contrabands putting them at risk of being infected with Covid-19. 

Maistry has blamed organisations such as Sasapo for resorting to exaggerating Covid-19 cases in correctional centres in an effort to get inmates released and instigate them.

"With regards to such instigations, the majority of inmates have ignored this agenda as they are familiar with the preventative measures in all our centres resulting in 256 active inmate cases across the country.

"A picture is being painted of a chaotic correctional centre environment, with hope that the public will be mobilized and pushed for mass releases. It must be emphasized that such will never happen," Maistry said.

"We live in a democratic state where the rule of law is supreme. Only those who qualify will be considered for parole placement. The department is taking measures to address such."

Maistry said since  March 15 the department has adopted "a careful approach in implementing its Covid-19 Disaster Management Response (DMR) Strategy, which includes prevention, containment and treatment with provision of the requisite Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs), including goggles, gloves, masks, gowns and the like, as well as screening and testing across all its correctional facilities".

"This multi-pronged approach includes repurposing some of the departmental workshops for the production of facemasks to enhance the provision of PPEs to offenders and officials," he said. 

He said they have also employed more than 700 additional professional nurses to bolster their current capacity of professionals in all correctional centres which includes medical practitioners, pharmacists, professional nurses, psychologists and counsellors as well as social work professionals. 

These healthcare professionals are armed with all relevant PPEs and fully adhere to all health protocols in dealing with Covid-19, to ensure the wellbeing and healthcare of all in correctional services centres," Maistry said. 

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