Seven inmates at Mandoli women’s prison test positive for Covid-19
There were fears of a major Covid-19 outbreak at the women’s prison at Delhi’s Mandoli jail last week, after seven inmates tested positive for Covid-19 and were admitted to the GTB hospital, but the authorities acted quickly and sanitised the entire prison complex to prevent a further spread.
While six of them have been discharged and are currently in isolation at the prison, the seventh person is still undergoing treatment. Prison officers said none of the seven was a new entrant and they suspect that the infection may have spread from an asymptomatic jail officer.
HT spoke to several jail officers who said following the scare, many prisoners were apprehensive that the virus may have entered the prison through the winter clothes brought by relatives. Jail officers, however, said they are yet to confirm any such link.
The relatives have been bringing in winter clothes as the temperature has been dipping steadily -- the city recorded a minimum temperature of 9.4 degrees Celsius on Thursday morning. As per rules, a prisoner is allowed an extra set of clothes, apart from the one (s)he is wearing at the time of entering the prison.
With visits of outsiders such as NGOs and lawyers mostly banned, except in special circumstances, and most court hearings happening over video conferencing, the extra pair of clothes is the only item from outside that prisoners currently have access to. Such restrictions were imposed in March to curb Covid-19 spread.
Since the lockdown in March, the bi-weekly meetings between prisoners and their relatives were also cancelled and they resumed only on October 1.
A jail officer said the 16 sub-jails at the three complexes of Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli have come up with a standard operating procedure for the handling the clothes. A mid-level prison officer, who did not wish to be named, said, “There was a Covid-19 scare inside jail number 16 of Mandoli prison. The prison headquarters has made it mandatory to wash all clothes before a prisoner uses them. All clothes brought by families are wrapped in plastic sheets and kept in a room. The clothes are collected by a prisoner wearing gloves and face mask, and they are soaked in water overnight, before being washed and dried.”
In another sub-jail, winter clothes brought by relatives are sanitised within the jail complex by the prison’s in-house sanitiser, washed thoroughly and then handed out to prisoners.
When contacted, director general, Delhi Prisons, Sandeep Goel said, “ It is difficult to say how our women prisoners got infected. They were admitted to the hospital as a precautionary measure and are stable. We have sanitised the complex. Clothes brought from outside are used only after they are washed. We are taking all the necessary precautions.”
Till date, two elderly inmates have died of Covid in the three prisons. There are currently seven Covid-19 positive prisoners and 23 jail personnel. Till date, the jails have reported 386 Covid-19 cases among prisoners and jail staff.