First case of Covid-19 in Mandoli jail complex

This comes around a week after an inmate of Rohini jail tested positive — the first case of the contagious infection in a Delhi prison. Seventeen more cases have emerged in Rohini jail since then.
(File photo for representation)
(File photo for representation)
Updated on May 22, 2020 02:54 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The Mandoli jail complex registered its first case of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), with a prison officer testing positive on Wednesday. This comes around a week after an inmate of Rohini jail tested positive — the first case of the contagious infection in a Delhi prison. Seventeen more cases have emerged in Rohini jail since then.

Since outsiders like family members and lawyers have for the past two months been banned from visiting the jail’s premises, officials in the prison department said they suspect the transmission inside the two complexes may be linked to infected prison officials who did not display symptoms of Covid-19.

Delhi’s Tihar jail, which currently houses around 9,500 prisoners and is the most crowded prison complex in the country, had not reported a single case of Covid-19, as of Thursday night.

Mandoli jail has around 3,100 inmates, while Rohini has 1,300.

The Capital recorded 571 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, taking the total to 11,659, of whom 194 have died.

In Mandoli, the infected deputy prison superintendent complained of fever on May 11, and went on leave. The prison’s director general, Sandeep Goel, confirmed the officer tested positive. “He was taking basic precautions like wearing masks and regularly using sanitisers. He was in contact with four people in the prison — two inmates and two staff members, who have been tested. All four are asymptomatic and have been sent to self-isolation,” he said.

In the first positive case in Rohini jail, a 29-year-old inmate tested positive earlier this month after he was admitted to DDU Hospital for a surgery.

The prisoner, who did not display any symptoms, had been admitted to the hospital for the surgery on May 10. After his results emerged, the Rohini jail administration tested other prisoners and jail officers whom he had been in contact with. Of these, 15 inmates and a jail officer tested positive for the disease. On Tuesday, an assistant superintendent of the Rohini prison also tested positive for the contagious disease.

A senior government official, who has been part of the contact-tracing exercise said the virus may have made its way to Rohini jail through an asymptomatic prison officer.

All inmates in the three jails — Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli — have no physical contact with outsiders except the prison staff. The biweekly visits of family members were cancelled in the third week of March to contain the spread of the disease.

They are in touch with relatives through the jails’ landline facilities, and court hearings are also held through video conference. New prisoners are lodged separately in isolated cells for 14 days before being allowed to mingle with others.

“None of the inmates who tested positive were new inmates. They were not in contact with anyone outside the prison for the last three or four months. The only way they may have been infected is through one of the jail officials. Jail officials cannot be blamed, because they showed no symptoms of the disease,” a senior Delhi home department official, who did not wish to be named, said.

Goel said the prison department has made it compulsory for all staff to wear masks in the jails’ premises.

“The jail staff must maintain social distance themselves, while also directing prisoners to follow the same. Any prison official who shows flu-like symptoms is being sent on leave. Many of our officers have relatives engaged in front-line work, and they have quarantined themselves at home. If a family member or relative display symptoms, prison officers get tested as well, and join work only if they test negative. We also have isolation centres for prison officers within the prison complex, but outside the jails. Tihar does not have a single case so far. We are taking all precautions to contain the disease.”

The prison department has released around 3,000 prisoners on parole and interim bail to decongest the jails.

Earlier this month, in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where 4,000 prisoners are lodged, 184 inmates and prison staff tested positive within a week of one prisoner contracting the virus.

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