- "Some 522 prisoners have been quarantined in separate cells of the province," said Shahid Baig, Inspector General of Prisons.
- A Pakistan citizen who was arrested for narcotics smuggling in Italy last month and was handed to Pakistan is said to have been the cause of the spread of the virus.
- The Supreme Court is reviewing a petition by the Attorney General to release prisoners to slow the spread.
Dozens of prisoners in Pakistan have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus. The authorities have confirmed this, saying most infections are in the country’s worst-hit province of Punjab. “The total number of prisoners infected with coronavirus in Punjab has reached 50 so far,” said Shahid Baig, Inspector General of Prisons.
“Some 522 prisoners have been quarantined in separate cells of the province,” he added. What’s more, some 20 cases had been reported in a camp jail in Lahore and other jails. “Health department officials are coming every day to monitor the situation and the conditions of the patients,” Amir Rauf Khawaja, a public relations officer for Lahore jail said. He added that results for around 150 inmates were pending.
A Pakistani citizen, who was arrested for narcotics smuggling in Italy last month, and was handed to Pakistan, is said to have been the cause of the spread of the virus to the prisons. He was then taken to camp jail Lahore, where he tested positive on March 23. The authorities said that the prisoner and other suspected coronavirus infected inmates were immediately quarantined.
Around 800 prisoners have been shifted from camp jail to other prisons following the outbreak. Prison visits have been banned in all 41 prisons in Punjab. Prisons and jails in Pakistan are crowded, and have poor hygienic conditions. This poses a grave danger when it comes to the highly contagious global pandemic.
There are more than 70,000 inmates in the 114 facilities in the country, according to last year’s government report. A petition filed by the country’s attorney general requesting for early release of thousands of prisoners due to the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be reviewed by the Supreme Court, despite the rise in the infections. Ali Haider Habib, from the advocacy group Justice Project Pakistan, called the outbreak a cause for “great alarm,” saying “drastic measures,” including releasing vulnerable prisoners, needed to be taken immediately.
The country has 4,196 cases of the virus with 60 deaths. On Tuesday, the country recorded a spike of 577 new coronavirus cases, which brought the total to 4,005. Punjab has more than 2,000 reported cases, it tops all the other provinces. Officials warn that the numbers may to rise, which would in turn worsen the situation.
The Sindh government spokesman, Murtaza Wahab, said the sudden increase in infections was a big threat and called on the people to strictly follow the set guidelines so as to help curb the spread. The government has extended the partial lockdown to April 14, and has urged the citizens to observe social distancing and stay indoors.
The country has recorded a rise in the number of Shia pilgrims who arrived in Punjab from Iran last month, which now stand at 577. On the other hand, the number of Tablighi Jamaat infected members has risen to 540 in Punjab province, said an official of Punjab health department.