In a bid to mitigate the spread of Covid19 in the country, the Zimbabwe Government has, in the interim, suspended all visits to border prisons at Beitbridge and Plumtree after six people, who include four inmates and two prison officers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa yesterday announced the temporary interdiction of prison visits in the border towns, saying the infected six have since been placed under isolation while the two affected prisons were also disinfected.
The two prison officers, each from Beitbridge and Plumtree border prisons, were ordered to self-isolate at their respective places of residence while the four inmates, two apiece from the same prisons, will be treated in isolation while in prison.
The Government has been working on measures to contain the spread of Covid19 in jails, including conducting PCR tests across the country’s prisons. The PCR testing, to be rolled over across the country’s prisons, started with border prisons where convicts who returned from countries with high infection figures are accommodated.
Minister Mutsvangwa lauded the availability of new testing equipment for the increased Covid19 testing which has now extended to correctional facilities across the country.
“The coming online of GeneXpert machines to test for Covid-19 has enabled increased testing capacity. All provincial hospitals can conduct PCR tests, and some machines are now testing at correctional facilities,” Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare yesterday.
Spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Superintendent Meya Khanyezi said a total of 274 PCR tests were done at Beitbridge and Plumtree border prisons.
“Of the 216 PCR tests conducted at Plumtree prison, three tested positive while three out of 58 PCR tests done at Beitbridge prison were positive.
“As a precautionary measure, we have declared the prisons a no-go area and the cells have since been fumigated. We no longer allow any visitors and we have also suspended any movements out of prisons for now,” Khanyezi said.
According to statistics from the country’s police authorities, a total number of 94 border jumpers were recently nabbed while crossing illegally into Zimbabwe.
The border jumpers have negatively contributed to Zimbabwe’s fight to mitigate the spread of coronavirus which has so far killed four nationals with confirmed cases totalling to 178 as of yesterday.
Current lockdown laws dictate that nationals returning from other countries undergo screening, testing and mandatory 21-day placement at selected Covid19 Quarantine facilities.
Police recently imprisoned a number of wanted criminals who had sought refuge in regional countries, chief among them being South Africa and Botswana.
In another worrying development which could jeopardise the country’s Covid19 fight, Zimbabwe has so far recorded 153 escapees from the quarantine centres.
Since President Emmerson Mnangagwa pronounced a national lockdown which begun on March 30, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has netted 49 405 people on charges of contravening Covid19 regulations.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews