Minister of Homeland Security Chimwendo Banda has said there’s a sudden coronavirus spike in Malawi prisons that is increasing by the day, saying President Lazarus Chakwera has pardoned the first inmate to test positive and has ordered further review.
Chimwendo Banda said Covid-19 the spread of Covid-19 in jails is endangering not only prisoners and workers but the general public as well.
He said 51 inmates had so far tested positive for the virus as well as 20 prison staff.
Minister Chimwendo Banda said the further spread of the pandemic has prompted authorities to take immediate steps to limit the risk posed by mass confinement, including releasing those detained on bail, along with elderly prisoners who pose little danger to the public.
“So we are looking at vulnerability, age and crime committed,” said the minister.
He said a committee has been set to make recommendations on how to decongest prisons in order to stop the “seeding” of infections
The minister said some prisoners should be released to create space in jails to help social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
“The President will make the final decision and review recommendations,” he said.
Human rights campaigners say it is essential to understand that, despite being physically secure, jails and prisons are not isolated from the community. People continuously enter and leave, including multiple shifts of prison staff; newly arrested charged and sentenced individuals; lawyers; and visitors.
Even if this flow is limited to the extent possible, the Malawi prison facilities remain densely populated and poorly designed to prevent the inevitable rapid and widespread dissemination of the virus.