The World Health Organization has declared Omicron to be a “variant of concern,” as it has far more mutations than any previous variant.
In anticipation of the fourth (4th) wave, continuous implementation of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Standard Operating Procedures, as well as the Risk-Adjusted Strategy, is non-negotiable and managers must ensure its full execution in the workplace.
As vaccination is our best defence, Acting National Commissioner Makgothi Thobakgale is leading the boosting of the DCS vaccination drive as part of the Vooma Vaccination Campaign. Addressing officials and inmates, on 24 November 2021, at Bizzah Makhate Management Area, in the Free State/Northern Cape Region, Commissioner Thobakgale said that DCS was pushing its vaccination drive even harder towards ensuring that all correctional facilities across the country rapidly reach population immunity.
Although the DCS vaccination drive has been relatively fruitful, with the inmate population immunity standing at 76% as at 18 November 2021, he said that the target of 90% is still to be achieved. “On 20 July 2021, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr. Ronald Lamola, launched the DCS Vaccination Rollout Programme at the Johannesburg Correctional Facility. The DCS Vaccination Plan for inmates and officials has since been implemented, and vaccination is continuing in all correctional centres across the country. The plan also entails monitoring and up-scaling of vaccinations, to ensure that all correctional facilities achieve the target of 90% inmate population immunity. This is being done through partnerships, including the Department of Health, GEMS, DCS Healthcare professionals, SA Partners and others.
“The national inmate performance of 76% is borne out of the sum of the performance of the six DCS regions, which is as follows: Free State/Northern Cape 91%; Limpopo/Mpumalanga/North West 82%; KZN 80%; WC 78%; EC 80% and Gauteng 57%.
“Due to the efficient work, since March 2020, undertaken by DCS during COVID-19, and the relative safety net we have achieved, we have managed to ensure that our correctional facilities are also under Lockdown Level 1 currently. We must commend our officials for their dedication and commitment thus far, as they have performed very well under the circumstances,” Commissioner Thobakgale said.
He further emphasized the need for implementation of robust prevention measures ahead of the anticipated fourth wave. “We are calling on officials and inmates to get ahead of the next wave by vaccinating now. We hope that the success of the DCS Vooma Vaccination drive thus far will inspire unvaccinated officials and inmates to step forward every day of the week to get vaccinated. Let us keep up this effort, as part of our daily programmes at correctional centres, and ensure that we inspire those who continue to go the extra mile to keep our nation safe,’’ said an elated Thobakgale.
Professional Nurse at Bizzah Makhate Correctional Centre B, Pulane Mosoeunyana became the first to receive the booster shot among DCS healthcare professionals during the vaccination drive. Mosoeunyana said she welcomes being among the first batch of health professionals to receive the booster shot. ‘’It was nice to be a part of those who were prioritized to get the booster shot today. This will also serve as motivation to other officials of the department, especially other healthcare professionals. I feel motivated, and will encourage others to vaccinate,’’ said Mosoeunyana.
Offender, Godfrey Matlolane, who is currently serving his nine-year sentence, believes that vaccination is the right thing to do given the rate of COVID-19 infections and its variants. ‘’I was motivated to save my life and those of other inmates. DCS did a very good thing for us by ensuring that we have information about this deadly disease. Though I am in custody, I always make sure that I have the latest information about the Coronavirus. After receiving my jab, I will persuade those who have not vaccinated,’’ said a happy Matlolane.
To promote a healthy lifestyle among DCS officials, as part of the Vooma Vaccination drive the Department also provided staff with an opportunity to undergo health screenings, in order to detect health risks or problems, by making use of a modern, one-stop Abby Health Station Machine. The apparatus is a self-service health station, through which 14 health checks are completed within two minutes.
‘’We are a HealthTech company that provides the highest quality health monitoring and tracking devices, as well as proprietary software for all our devices,’’ said David Lasker from Abby Health.
Among other services rendered to staff on the day was the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to improve the wellness of the DCS workforce.