Uganda’s rising prison COVID-19 infections

Uganda Prison. /Social Media

In Uganda, mass testing for COVID-19 at a state prison in the north of the country has left authorities worried.

Uganda Prison. /Social Media

According to the country’s Ministry of Health, the tests revealed 152 new infections and that number accounts for most cases reported by the country’s health ministry in a single day.

The large cluster of cases was found through mass testing of inmates at a government prison in Northern Uganda.

152 inmates and one staff member were found to be positive for coronavirus.
The number is close to half of the 318 confirmed cases reported by the ministry on Saturday.

It’s the highest number of new infections reported in a single day.

Ruth Aceng, Uganda Health Minister says, “It is possible that a prisoner from the Amuru community may have been taken to the prison with the infection while asymptomatic.

In any case, Amuru district is one of the hotspot districts with a high level of community transmission.”

The confirmed cases from the prison have been transferred to an auxiliary isolation facility, where they are being attended to by a medical team.

Authorities say twenty-seven prison staff are also under quarantine.

The COVID-19 cases may be most pronounced in this one correction centre in the north of the country, but the worst is feared for several other centres as the prison population continues to surge

According to authorities, the number of inmates has jumped more than 10%  since March.

There are now roughly 64,000 inmates in the system.Despite improved medical and feeding conditions, the facilities remain congested.

“We continue to get prisoners from the courts. Probably what I would urge is that the judiciary should only send those who should be in prison, not petty offenders especially at this critical time of the pandemic,” Johnson Byabashaija,Commissioner General  Prisons, Uganda.

Transmission rates are also on the rise outside prison walls.
The capital Kampala registered 342 cases this past week.

Tegegn Woldemariam, Country Representative, World Health Organization says, “Even where the behaviour of a population is far adherent than what we see in Kampala, this virus is exploiting every possible means to infect and kill and it is a virus which asks all of us to obey certain measure to prevent ourselves and the community.”

In July, the government eased some of its lockdown restrictions that have been in place since March.

Businesses and public transport are in operation with safety guidelines like wearing masks and keeping physical distance.

But with the spike, authorities say a second lock-down is a possibility.

Report by CGTN’s Leon Ssenyange