Commissioner of Prisons, Dennis Pulchan.

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A COVID-19 crisis is now looming at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca, as 82 prisoners have already tested positive for the virus while almost 200 test results are still pending and the recently-commissioned isolation facility for prisoners has reached its capacity. Last weekend, 18 prisoners tested positive for the virus, sparking the prison’s temporary lockdown and an extensive contact tracing exercise. Some 220 prisoners and over 20 guards identified as primary and secondary contacts of the infected prisoners were then swabbed. The Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed in its 4 pm update that 20 of the samples taken had returned positive. However, acting Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan told Guardian Media that by last night the number of positives had climbed to 64 – all of them prisoners.“Claxton Bay is filled…with the crisis looming in MSP pending the outcome of the tests, we will have to make room somehow…but I won’t predict anything as yet. I have a plan a, b, c,” Pulchan said in a Whatsapp message. Pulchan was unable to divulge further details on the contingency plans but asked for the public’s trust in him. “(I) won’t want to let my plans out of the bag as yet…for security reasons…it’s a prison I run and there are always persons looking to escape or disrupt plans…so I ask that you have a lil confidence in the CoP…I am doing this 39 years so far,” he said. Pulchan hoped to receive all the results by last night so he could initiate the isolation of infected people and protect those who aren’t yet infected. The recently confirmed cases make 121 to occur throughout the prison system locally.The Ministry of Health also confirmed 30 infections outside of the prison cluster yesterday, one of whom was a recently repatriated national. The other cases were from samples taken between November 10 and 12. The ministry also released 26 people from its care – two discharged from public health facilities and 24 people from home self-isolation as recovered community cases. There were 414 people in home self-isolation, 33 in hospitals and 29 in step-down/transitional facilities. There were 158 people in state quarantine facilities. Deaths remained at 111.