32 prisoners at Thane temporary jail test positive for Covid-19
As many as 32 new prisoners at the temporary prison attached to Thane Central jail have tested positive for Covid-19. The undertrial prisoners were tested during their 14-day compulsory stay at the temporary prison before they were housed in the central jail.
Jail administration claimed that random testing led to the detection of infection among the new prisoners. They have been now moved to a local civic facility for treatment and regular monitoring.
“On random testing of prisoners lodged in our temporary prison located at Vitawa area in Kalwa, on July 1, nearly 12 prisoners tested positive for Covid-19. Following this on July 2 we subjected all prisoners in the temporary jail to test and found 20 more prisoners infected by the virus. In all over 200 prisoners were subjected to the test,” said Harshad Aherao, superintendent of Thane Central prison.
“All the infected prisoners have been moved to a local quarantine centre in Bhayanderpada, a local civic facility. None of them is serious and most of them are asymptomatic and recovering fast,” Aherao added.
He said in the main prison there is no new case of infection. Most of the prisoners have been vaccinated and we also randomly carry RT-PCR tests, the superintendent added.
At present, the prison has 41 active Covid cases, and all of them are lodged in quarantine facilities. Since April 2020, a total of 232 prisoners of Thane Central jail tested positive for Covid-19 and 191 of them have already recovered.
Thane prison is one of the most overcrowded central prisons in the state. This south range prison is housing over 3,500 prisoners against its capacity of 1,105 inmates.
“Even after spending 14 days in an isolation centre (the temporary prison), one can not be 100% sure that a prisoner is not infected. So to ensure zero spread of infection among other prisoners, after completing 14 days in temporary jail, the new inmates are again lodged separately in quarantine cell within the jail and are not allowed to get mixed with other prisoners for the next 14 days,” Aherao said.
In April this year, in a similar outbreak, 39 women inmates at the Byculla women’s Jail including Sheena Bora murder case convict and wife of Peter Mukherjea; Indrani Mukherjea, had tested Covid positive. Last year in June there was a major outbreak in Arthur Road Central prison when over 180 prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19.
In Maharashtra so far a total of 4,199 prisoners have got infected by the deadly virus across 46 jails. Of them, 13 succumbed to the disease while 4,109 have recovered. At present, there are 77 active Covid infected prisoners. On June 30 the number of active Covid infected prisoners was 35. Around 947 prison staff across the state had also contracted the virus and nine of them succumbed to the infectious disease, while 921 recovered. 17 staff are still undergoing treatment at different facilities.
The current population of jails in the state is 33,711 against the capacity of around 24,000.
A jail official from Pune said that nearly 70% population in the state jails have been vaccinated (mostly with the first dose).
The state prisons have been following a practice wherein new prisoners are lodged in the jails compulsorily after RT-PCR tests and Vaccination.
The prison department since the outbreak of Covid in jails in May 2020 has not been allowing any fresh inmates without the Covid tests.
‘Mulaqats’ (visits of prisoner’s relatives to jail to meet prisoners) are still not permitted.
Taking cognizance of the April 16 report of Hindustan Times and another publication the Bombay High Court had initiated a suo motu (on its own) public interest litigation. During one such hearing of the matter, the High Court had directed authorities to compulsorily subject the new prisoners to RT-PCR test and a vaccination shot 24-hours before being admitted to the prison. Last month after observing a decline in cases of Covid-19 among prisoners the court had expressed its satisfaction over the measures implemented by the prison authority to contain the spread of the infectious disease among prisoners.