No Covid-19 infections in SA's prisons - Justice Minister
CAPE TOWN - Four correctional services officials in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have been isolated after displaying symptoms commensurate with the early stages of Covid-19, justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola said on Friday.
Lamola said the department has started doing mass screening of officials and prisoners but so far no inmates have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Correctional services was taking special precautions to prevent infection among inmates. This included sanitising key areas in prisons, as well as shackles and keys, and handing out sanitary essentials to prisoners.
"There have been increased concerns from South Africans with loved ones in our centres, informed by the fear that Covid-19 poses a greater risk to those who are confined to narrowed spaces and those who are at a close proximity to each other.
"We want to assure all South Africans that measures are in place to ensure that offenders are safe.... Do not panic."
Since the government has banned all prison visits by relatives until April 15, Lamola said the department was considering other ways of enabling contact between inmates and their families.
"We are currently looking at new communication measures between visitors and inmates," he said, without giving further detail.
South Africa has a prison population of 163,000.
The first case of Covid-19 in the country was confirmed two weeks ago and by Friday the number of people infected had reached 202, according to the health ministry.
African News Agency