A day after a 71-year-old remand prisoner in Poojappura Central Jail, Thiruvananthapuram, tested postive for COVID-19, 59 prisoners who shared the same prison block as the 71-year-old have been declared positive on Wednesday. Such a large number tested positive when antigen tests were done on 99 prisoners in Block 7, a section where elderly convicts are lodged. It is said there are 107 prisoners in Block 7.
There are about 970 prisoners and 300-odd employees at the Central prison. Jail authorities said samples of all convicts and jail staff would be collected in the coming days. Mobile testing units of the Health Department will be employed for the tests, and kits from HLL Lifecare will be used.
A major outbreak in the Central Prison could trigger a public scare as food packets prepared by convicts are popular in the capital city. Branded 'Freedom Chappatis', they are sold from various mobile units stationed in various parts of the city and also from the main outlet near the entrance of the Poojappura jail.
Jail authorities were quick to point out that none of the convicts engaged in chappati making is placed in Block 7. They also said that interaction between inmates of various blocks are highly limited and, therefore, discounted the possibility of a 'super cluster' within the jail.
The inmates found positive will now be treated in a special block created within the jail premises.
It was when the 71-year-old prisoner fainted inside the jail on August 10 that the presence of the virus was first detected in the jail. He is said to have got the virus from a visitor, and contact tracing is now on.
The huge spread inside the jail has also forced authorities to rework the duty schedule in the jail. Jail staff will now be divided into three groups and only one group of employees will be on duty at a given time.