Four inmates die, COVID fear rules jails


Four inmates of the Central Jail at Sundhara have died in the past two days. While one of the inmates who had tested positive for COVID-19 succumbed to the virus at Kathmandu-based Mega Hospital yesterday, three more inmates, who were recently transferred to the jail, died at Bir Hospital today. The swab samples of the three who died today have been collected and will be screened for coronavirus using polymerase chain reaction method.

Officials at the Department of Prison Management said the three who died today were suffering from ‘serious illnesses’.

The DoPM has claimed to have adopted precautionary measures like establishing quarantines and increasing PCR tests in prisons and juvenile correction centres to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

Despite the claims by the authorities, the number of prisoners contracting the virus has increased over the past few months. As of today 111 prison inmates have already tested positive for the virus. Among them, 91 prison inmates are from the central jail, the country’s largest prison, which currently holds above 3,150 inmates.

The increasing number of COVID-19 patients has also sent a wave of panic among the 24,163 jailbirds besides, 667 juveniles and additional 81 infants living with their parents in a total of 72 prisons and eight juvenile correction homes across the country.

Fear of the COVID spread inside prisons is high as almost all prisons are crammed with inmates and detainees more than double their capacity.

For instance, the number of inmates at the country’s largest prison at Sundhara is almost double its actual capacity to hold around 1,7000 prisoners.

Normally, the kitchen and dining hall of jailbirds are in a messy state. They are required to share common washrooms and they also play in groups.

Following the high possibility of the virus spread inside prisons, a meeting of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the Parliament yesterday ordered the government to ensure safety of jailbirds and increase safety of the prisons across the country.

Hundreds of fresh people are sent to prisons across the country, everyday. A large number of jailbirds are required to be hospitalised for medical check-up, on a regular basis.

The DoPM claimed that it would establish quarantine facilities in all prisons across the country. Those facilities would be used to place the inmates, who developed symptoms of the virus.

Devershi Sapkota, spokesperson for DoPM said, “Once we place them at quarantine facilities, we immediately conduct their PCR tests and send those who test positive for COVID-19 to COVID special hospitals.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 2, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.