18 Aug 2020  |   07:01am IST

33 Colvale jail undertrials, staff test COVID positive within three days

33 Colvale jail undertrials, staff test  COVID positive within three days

Team Herald

PANJIM: The Colvale Central Jail is staring at a larger outbreak of COVID-19 with nearly 28 undertrial prisoners and five staff contracting the infection within three days. The jail reported its second case on August 13 after a gap of over a month. But purported negligence on the part of the jail authorities has led to escalating cases in the modern jail housing 550-odd prisoners. 

Sources said a jail guard, second positive case in the jail, had allegedly showed initial symptoms of COVID-19 since August 2. It was not seriously considered and he continued to report on duty until in-house doctor finally sent him to Asilo sub-district hospital to undergo the test, report of which confirmed positive for the virus. 

It was a tip of the ice-berg as many positive cases were reported in the following two days. As on Monday evening, 28 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 creating panic among the inmates and around 120 staff. 

Inspector General of Prisons Gurudas Pilarnkar has confirmed the total cases while he denied allegations of negligence. 

He asserted that all precautions are being adhered to. “Ever since the jail reported first case last month, we had given instructions to the jail officials to not enter the cells. I also deny negligence on the part of the authorities as all precautions are being followed,” the IGP informed Herald. 

Had it not for a handful working staff, the cases could have increased manifold. A jail guard, who took up the issue with his superiors, had insisted to get the unwell prisoners tested at Asilo. Although 7-12 hours of delay, around 15 prisoners were sent for testing of whom six were infected. 

“The in-house dispensary had prescribed medicine to unwell prisoners, but they didn’t recover. Many prisoners complained of fever and tiredness. Despite bringing it to the notice of officers in the jail, they were not sent for testing. After a jail guard brought the matter with his superiors that 15 prisoners were sent for testing between 5 pm and 7 pm on Sunday. Six were positive,” the source said. 

Some of remaining unwell prisoners still waited for their turn until they were taken to Asilo on Monday. 

Shockingly, the COVID-19 positive undertrials were quarantined in a cell instead of admitting them at the jail’s in-house hospital. The cell has no water supply or ventilation. More so, around 20 undertrials in cell number 5 of NDPS block were shifted to an old staff barrack to accommodate the quarantined prisoners. 

Creating fear among other inmates, the positive prisoners were allegedly loitering around other cells with no jail staff willing to stop them. “No jailor, no hawaldar and no higher ups were present to monitor the situation until other staff demanded their presence to handle the situation. We are carrying out our duty despite the scare, but still being warned of disciplinary action by our superiors. It’s unfair,” lamented a jail official. 

By Monday evening, 32 more positive cases were detected further panicking the situation inside the premises. No safety kits to the staff have been provided so far and neither jail premises has been sanitized. However, the IGP said that sanitisation is regularly being carried out. 


Iddhar Udhar