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233 Assam jail inmates test positive for COVID-19

A heath worker in protective suit takes nasal swab sample of a man to test for COVID-19 in a slum area in Gauhati, Assam on Monday, May 17, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AP

The sudden detection of COVID-19 infections among 105 inmates of the Dibrugarh and Sivasagar jails in eastern Assam has taken the current positive count among prisoners to 233.

Officials said there were 128 COVID-19 positive prisoners across 16 of Assam’s 31 jails till May 17, including six facilities that also serve as detention centres for declared foreigners.

“But 54 prisoners in Dibrugarh Central Jail and 51 in the Sivasagar jail tested positive over the past couple of days, after some 400 of them were tested. There are 233 positive prisoners as of today, with a few having recovered over a month or so,” Inspector-General of Prisons Barnali Sarma told The Hindu.

The first inmate of the Dibrugarh jail to test positive was Jibon Moran, the former ‘major general’ of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), who was arrested on return to Assam from Myanmar after the outfit retired him for health reasons.

The Dibrugarh jail has 530 inmates now.

The infection rate across the prisons this time is, however, much less than during the first COVID-19 wave in 2020. More than 3,000 prisoners had tested positive last year, she said.

Ms. Sarma said there were no positive cases despite regular testing for four months till April 18.

“Having experienced the first COVID wave, we had taken precautions when the second wave began affecting other States across the country. From May 13, we made it compulsory for each new inmate to go through 14 days of isolation first, besides disinfecting the jail and ensuring masks all the time for the inmates,” she said.

A high-powered committee headed by a Gauhati High Court judge is scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide on further decongesting the jails by releasing prisoners convicted of or facing charges that are non-heinous.

Vaccination without documents

Beginning with western Assam’s Kokrajhar Central Jail, 958 prisoners and declared foreigners have been vaccinated by May 18 in the State.

The six detention centres now have at least 200 declared foreigners. More than 600 of them have been released after completing two years in detention, as directed by the Supreme Court following the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

“We followed the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs to start vaccinating the prisoners. Since they do not have Aadhaar or PAN cards, we devised a vaccination mechanism whereby the Deputy Commissioner concerned issues a certificate,” Ms. Sarma said.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 1:16:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/233-assam-jail-inmates-test-positive-for-covid-19/article34597185.ece

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