NATIONAL NEWS - President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on government's plan to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country on Sunday 17 March.
During his address he imposed certain travel bans and social distancing. He also declared all correctional facilities on lockdown for at least the next month.
So what does this mean for inmates in custody and their families?
"The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has been instructed to suspend offender visits for a period of 30 days, in order to put in place preventative and mitigating measures against the spread of Covid-19," said the department's national spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo.
Preventative measures, that include testing at all points of entry of inmates, officials and contractors, will contribute to making DCS centres Covid-19 free. Specific training must also be offered to inmates and officials in order to deal with the pandemic.
"The plan for DCS is quite extensive as it must also talk to how inmates are admitted in our facilities and transported to either courts or hospitals. [This includes] the type of vehicles to be utilised and the use of technology, such as video conferencing for some court appearances in order to limit social contact," said Nxumalo.
He said that a standard operating procedure and a national mitigation plan have been developed to guide the overall response that DCS will employ to prevent the spread of the virus, and be in a position to contain it should there be an outbreak.
"Communication with inmates, officials and the general public will be elevated in order to keep everyone abreast of new developments."
Police are ever ready
Southern Cape police spokesperson Capt Malcolm Pojie said local police are ready to face Covid-19. "We are geared for any eventuality and our members have been sensitised as such. All necessary measures have been put in place in terms of the hygiene of our members and visitors to the various police stations. We have aligned ourselves with the requirements passed by the Department of Health and we work closely with all departments during this national crisis," he said.
He also urged the public to refrain from spreading rumours and unconfirmed news, and warned people to be vigilant to avoid becoming victims of scams and hoaxes.
Coronavirus and the courts
Public access to courts in South Africa will be restricted amid the current Covid-19 outbreak. This was announced by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on Tuesday 17 March during a meeting in Midrand with heads of various courts in the country.
From now on only those who are directly involved in a court case will be allowed in the building. This includes the court officials, legal teams, the accused, any witnesses, family and the media.
Additional safety measures are also to be implemented immediately. All work surfaces have to be cleaned thoroughly, including offices, courtrooms and door handles. Courtrooms must also be sanitised at least twice a day and visitors' hands will be disinfected.
Protective clothing such as gloves and face masks will also be issued to court personnel to protect them.
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