An official who works at a women’s prison in East London has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, the Department of Correctional Services said on Monday.
The official, who is based at the East London Correctional Centre, is in a stable condition.
Officials who came into contact with her have already been identified and asked to isolate themselves at home while waiting for their tests.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases will start mass screening and testing on Wednesday at the East London Female Correctional Centre.
The department will also continue with prevention measures, and it believes a mass screening schedule for all correctional centres will help it avert the transmission of the virus.
“Correctional services would like to appeal for calm during this period. We are committed to the wellbeing of offenders and officials in the department,” it said.
The news would have come as a blow to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola who wrote earlier on Monday there had not been any cases in prison.
He praised the department’s officials for this, despite early problems in ordering personal protective equipment due to the worldwide surge in demand.
Lamola attributed the success in preventing the virus from entering prisons mostly to prohibiting visits and the hygienic practices adhered to by staff.
The measures the department introduced include:
- Correctional supervision and parole board sittings will be suspended except in circumstances mentioned in the gazette, while day parole granted to sentenced offenders is suspended.
- Temporary leave in terms of Section 44 of the Correctional Services Act will not be granted to sentenced offenders.
- The transfer of inmates is limited and must be referred to the chief operations commissioner for consideration and approval.
- Suspension of visits by members of the public to correctional centres and remand detention facilities.
- Inmates can only talk to their lawyers by telephone about urgent matters.
For courts, only witnesses and the accused are being allowed in courtrooms, apart from investigating officers, lawyers and the usual court officials who are present during cases.
A screening form has to be completed by everybody entering court buildings and people have to have their hands sanitised on entry.
Actual court appearances have been reduced significantly through the use of audio visual appearances.
The department has wished its ill colleague a speedy recovery.