As many as 64 out of 82 inmates and three guards of the Bareli sub-jail in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday evening, indicating the poor preventive measures being adopted in prisons across the state.
Incidentally, Raisen is the home district of the newly appointed state Health Minister Prabhuram Choudhary, a Jyotiraditya Scindia confidante.
Caught on the wrong foot, the state government has now decided to subject all new prisoners to COVID-19 confirmatory tests before they are allowed in the main jail area in all jails.
Home and Jail Minister Narottam Mishra on Tuesday said prisoners will be allowed into the main jail area only after a confirmatory blood antigen test for COVID-19. Till their reports are received, the prisoners will be housed in isolation cells that will be set up in all jails of the state, the minister said in a media statement.
Meanwhile, 41 of the 64 positive inmates were shifted to district hospital in neighbouring Vidisha on Tuesday, while others have been quarantined and given necessary treatment in an isolation ward created in the jail itself, the minister informed.
The three infected guards were sent to Raisen district hospital for treatment on Monday night and 11 other staff members, including guards and administrative staff, are undergoing COVID-19 tests.
The minister said he has received the report regarding COVID-19 outbreak in the jail and has recommended suspension of the jailor to the director general of police (DGP).
Sources said the sub-jail has a capacity of only 40 prisoners, but 82 people were housed in the jail. Several prisoners had been reporting symptoms like cough and cold since past few days, but the samples of all prisoners were taken only on Sunday after the number of those with symptoms swelled. The report on Monday showed 67 total positive cases, including 64 out of 82 prisoners and three guards.
It is suspected that the infection spread due to new entrants to the jail who might have been COVID-19 positive but not tested before being allowed inside the jail.
Before this, several prisoners and jail personnel from different jails tested COVID-19 positive in Madhya Pradesh, most of them in hotspot Indore. However, this is the first time that so many prisoners have tested positive for the dreaded infection at one go.