Cape Town - The National of Correctional Services Makgothi Thobakgale said they were “leaving nothing to chance” as they have reverted to Covid-19 protocols to contain the spread of diphtheria.
Days after Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla announced the outbreak of the virus at Pollsmoor Prison, Thobakgale hosted a press briefing with the media yesterday.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic had prepared them on how to tackle viruses.
Their line of defence included a vaccination drive, hygiene protocol, screening, contact tracing and isolation measures.
They confirmed that the prisoner who was detained at Medium A since December 2022 had presented symptoms on October 28 and was referred to medical facilities, where he died on November 5.
Thobakgale said the prisoner attended court proceedings at the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court on October 20.
When asked if they were working on tracing and where he had contracted it, he said they were working closely with the Department of Health.
He said 342 prisoners were treated with the diphtheria vaccine and 15 staff members.
While they had identified 55 close contacts as part of their investigation and eight tested positive, who are now in isolation and receiving medical care.
Three staff members have since also tested negatively with provisional results.
Thobakgale said they have had no new cases in the past five days and had the situation under control using various measures to contain the virus.
“The comprehensive set of measures that we have implemented to mitigate the spread of the disease includes a vaccination campaign, and all eligible persons received the diphtheria vaccine,” he said.
“We have heightened our hygiene practices.
“Inmates and staff members are once again being educated and encouraged to practise enhanced hygiene, including a regular wash with soap and water, etc.
“Facilities are being deep-cleaned. “We have issued our inmates and staff with masks as a preventive measure.
“Another measure is isolation. Those who had direct contact with the index are being isolated and medical care is being provided to those presenting high or mild symptoms.
“Inmates and staff will now be subjected to regular screening to detect any potential cases.
“We are working very closely with the Department of Health, ensuring that we put a comprehensive plan in place.
“We are leaving nothing to chance. “So far no new cases have been reported in the past five days.”
Phaala’s office said symptoms of diphtheria include sore throat with the formation of a membrane on the tonsil and throat, and swollen glands in the front of the neck.