Rwanda: Covid-19 - Correctional Service Reassures on Safety of Inmates

Rwandans queue to cast their votes (file photo).
12 November 2020

Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) has allayed fears regarding the safety of inmates in different prisons in the country, following cases of Covid-19 that were reported in at least two prison facilities.

According to the service, precautionary measures have been put in place to contain the spread of the virus among prison communities.

On Wednesday, November 11, 27 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Nyarugenge prison.

This brought the number of infections in prisons to 40 after Health Minister Dr. Daniel Ngamije announced that 13 more inmates from Rwamagana Prison, commonly known as Nsinda, tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, November 9.

Four of them have succumbed to the virus, according to the health ministry.

Since the beginning of this week, all inmates countrywide are undergoing mass testing to examine the pandemic situation in prisons as well as to control the pace of infections where new cases were discovered.

A medical team from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) has since been deployed in prisons, starting from Nsinda prison, to carry out contact tracing and testing as many people as possible, including workers, suppliers, inmates, and the surrounding community to make sure that no loophole in left for the Virus to spread widely.

Elderly inmates are also being separated from others while symptomatic ones are isolated in designated isolation facilities.

Speaking to The New Times, Senior Superintendent of Prisons Pelly Uwera Gakwaya, the RCS Spokesperson said that all positive cases registered in prisons so far are those of new inmates transferred to the prison from detentions.

She said the institution has reserved a special isolation facility at every prison countrywide where new inmates are isolated for a period of between 14 and 21 days and get tested before they are given green light to join other inmates.

"The new cases were discovered in new inmates who were tested while in isolation facilities. The mass testing is underway and no other inmate in the prison has tested positive yet," Uwera said, adding that and the situation is now under control.

No new cases have been reported in other prisons yet apart from Nsinda and Nyarugenge prisons, according to Uwera, as RCS continues to work closely with RBC and respective prisons leaderships to keep the pandemic in check while also making sure that preventive measures are respected.

"Prisons are no exception when it comes to respecting preventive measures against the pandemic. We are making sure safety measures are respected in all prisons to avoid the spread of the pandemic at all cost," she said.

Visits still restricted

Since the government announced a total lockdown back in March, prisons have restricted families and friends from visiting inmates, while RCS immediately suspended income-generating activities undertaken by inmates.

Uwera said that public visits at prisons are still suspended until further notice to enforce preventive measures of the pandemic for the best of inmates' safety.

Prisons, however, allow relatives and friends to send money to inmates via mobile money using designated telephone lines so that they can buy whatever they want in the prisons canteens.

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