The Government has, with immediate effect, banned outside visitors for prisoners at all correctional facilities across the country after four inmates and one prison officer tested positive for coronavirus at Bulawayo Prison.
The latest changes come at a time when the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has decided to embark on disinfection processes and mass testing for inmates and prison officers.
Bulawayo Prison has over 100 inmates and more than 100 ZPCS officers.
Yesterday, ZPCS officially launched its Covid-19 operational plan, which offers an overall guidance on how to manage confirmed and suspected cases of Covid-19 at the country’s prisons.
Whilst the actual number of inmates and prison officers who came in contact with the infected quintet could not be immediately established as of yesterday, state media reported that the prison officer has since been placed on self-isolation while the inmates have been taken to a separate cell.
“We are in the process of testing everyone at Bulawayo Prison because everyone else becomes a contact for those five confirmed cases. It is not something that will be done overnight, it is a process because we are talking of more than 200 prison officers and inmates combined. We have banned outside visitors for inmates,” the state media quoted Dr Evidence Gaka, the ZPCS health services director as saying.
“There are five confirmed cases of Covid-19 at Bulawayo Prison involving four inmates and a prison officer. As contained in our ZPCS operational plan, the officers who are infected self-isolate at their homes and in the invent that it is not practical for them to self-isolate, we have other measures that we put in place,” said Dr Gaka.
The ZPCS is also working with the acting Provincial Medical Director Dr Welcome Mlilo to conduct the mass testing and disinfections of the cells at Bulawayo Prison.
“We are in the process of testing everyone at Bulawayo Prison because everyone else becomes a contact for those five confirmed cases. It is not something that will be done overnight, it is a process because we are talking of more than 200 prison officers and inmates combined. We have banned outside visitors for inmates,” he said.
The sad development comes at a time when a total of 18 health personnel working in the same ward at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) tested positive for Covid-19 after they allegedly attended to an infected patient.
Since the outbreak of the deadly pandemic on March 20, Zimbabwe has recorded nine Covid19 deaths and a cumulative figure of 885 infections.
On Wednesday, the country recorded 98 new coronavirus cases, with 47 of them being local transmissions while the rest constitute returnees who travelled from other countries, mainly South Africa.
The general sentiment is also to the effect that the President Emmerson Mnangagwa Zanu PF administration has been doctoring and exaggerating Covid19 figures in a bid to introduce a total lockdown that will enable state authorities to get rid of envisaged mass protests over the worsening economic situation in the country.
On Wednesday, Government spokesperson Ndavaningi ‘Nick’ Mangwana said there was need to introduce a total lockdown in Harare and Bulawayo which lead the pack in terms of both infections and mortalities related to Covid19.
The country’s cities are perrenial strongholds for the opposition MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews