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Rwanda: New Measures to Tackle Covid-19 Spread in Jails

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Last week, the Ministry of Health announced that Rwamagana Prison had confirmed 13 Covid-19 infections.

Few days later, Muhanga and Nyarugenge Prisons also reported Covid-19 cases.

According to the Ministry of Health, so far, over 180 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in prisons and 12 inmates have so far succumbed to the virus.

Speaking to The New Times, Dr Tharcisse Mpunga, the Minister of State in charge of Primary Healthcare at the Ministry of Health said that several additional Covid-19 preventive measures have been put in place to curb the spread of the virus in prisons.

“We have established a treatment centre in each of the three prisons which have reported Covid-19 infections. We have also deployed our medical team in the area and they are carrying out contact tracing and testing as many people as possible to ensure that we leave no loophole for the virus to spread wider.”

Other measures, he said, include separating older people from other inmates because they are more vulnerable as far as Covid-19 is concerned.

According to Mpunga, no new inmates are received at prisons where Covid-19 has been already confirmed, and employees at these specific facilities are not allowed to move to other locations.

For other prisons country-wide, he explained, new inmates must be put under a 14-day quarantine before joining others, and those who are discharged must be tested before joining the community.

All people who supply goods to correctional facilities also undergo Covid-19 testing, Mpunga said.

How did Covid-19 arrive in prisons?

The government has not yet established how the virus arrived in prisons even as Mpunga says that inmates go to hospitals outside the correctional facilities and these facilities also receive suppliers on many occasions.

Additionally, he added, the fact employees who work in jail receive new inmates from different detentions across the country makes it difficult to ascertain how the virus got to prisons.

Commenting on the increase in Covid-19 infections being identified in prisons, Mpunga said: “Considering that most prisons are congested, when one person contracts Covid-19, it is easy for them to infect many others as well.”

Out of the 5,507 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 5,008 have already recovered.

The virus has claimed 46 lives in the country.

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