The Maximum Security Prison in Arouca.

The Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Arouca is now officially under lockdown as 19 inmates have been tested positive for COVID-19.

According to prison sources, over the weekend of October 30 to November 1, a massive search took place in the MSP and a few days after two inmates began displaying flu-like symptoms.

The prison source claimed that initially the inmates were believed to contracted the H1N1 and were not quarantined.

However, the source added that when the two inmates were placed among other prisoners, the symptoms allegedly began spreading among the inmates.

Further testing was done and the results of the two inmates were positive. Testing was also done among scores of other inmates and 19 in total tested positive.

Speaking with the Guardian Media, Acting Commissioner of Prisons, Dennis Pulchan confirmed that the MSP is now under “lockdown mode.”

“The prison is on lockdown mode to limit the movement of inmates and officers and if I can do this for 14 days it means I can starve the virus from spreading. I am having the prison sanitized morning, evening and lunchtime now. COVID-19 is here and it is my job to do everything in my power to protect the prison population,” Pulchan said.

He disclosed that he called an emergency meeting with his executive yesterday.

“In that meeting, we discussed strategies one of which is protecting the lifers at the MSP who are among the ageing population and some of them have medical complications and we cannot afford for them to get COVID-19. We have to see what is happening and act accordingly,” Pulchan added.

Pulchan said several inmates were tested last week and the results only were officially in on Friday night.

“We saw inmates displaying flu-like symptoms and we separated them in an area we call the “hot zone” which I had cordoned off. So, on Friday 18 tested positive and they were moved to the Claxton Bay facility so in total we have 19 there.”

Pulchan said he and his officers spent the rest of the weekend doing tracing throughout the prison.

“We are doing tracing throughout the prison to see who they came in contact with. All my officers are out today and vigorously pursuing that with the view of protecting all the other inmates…in the area, we cordoned off as the ‘hot zone’ we got that upon advice from medical doctors and now we are limiting movement of any inmate because we are not quite sure who might be positive or not. Once primary contact has been detected we separated them and are having them monitored. So far, it’s 50 inmates but none of them showing any signs yet,” he said.

11 new COVID cases

Meanwhile the Ministry of Health announced yesterday that a further 11 people have tested positive for COVID-19. That took the number of positive cases in T&T to 5,849. The ministry said the 606 people remain active with 302 in State quarantine and 526 in home isolation. The number of deaths from the virus remain at 111.