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File picture: Inmates in a cell block at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca.

Over 200 inmates at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Arouca will undergo swabbing for testing for the Covid-19 from Wednesday into Thursday.

This was confirmed by the acting Commissioner of Prisons, Dennis Pulchan in a telephone interview yesterday.

Pulchan said these inmates, are the ones who have been identified as primary and secondary contacts through tracing of those who would have come in contact with the 18 inmates that tested positive for the COVID-19 over the weekend.

“We are putting infrastructure in place already. I have spoken to doctors from Mount Hope and we are putting things in place for when they come to start the process. The inmates who will be swabbed are still in the cordoned-off area in a separate division. We are still in lockdown mode,” Pulchan said.

Asked if there are any contingency plans should there be a full-scale contamination int he prison, Pulchan replied: “We are hoping for the best. If it results in a full-scale contamination we will then have to probably call out all officers who are on vacation or otherwise. Although we have seen that officers are contracting the virus we are also seeing recoveries so there is a high turnover. Hoping we don’t have to reach to that.”

Pulchan said he visited the inmates housed at the Claxton Bay facility on Tuesday morning and confirmed that they have been seen by doctors, “They have to wait out the 14 day quarantine period and then they will be re-swabbed and re-tested and once they are negative they will then be moved out of that facility and back into the prison.”

Over the weekend, 18 prisoners from the MSP tested positive and were relocated to the Claxton Bay Correctional Facility for quarantine.

The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service has since advised that the MSP is under temporary lockdown and the prisoners, who complained about feeling unwell, were placed before the Prisons Medical Officer who recommended testing as per procedure.

“They were tested on Thursday November 5 and returned positive results the following day,” Pulchan said.

Pulchan noted the concerns of relatives and friends and has assured all that the affected persons are being observed and monitored daily and Welfare Officers have been assigned to update persons identified as ‘next of kin.

“Containment measures have continued with a scheduled testing of inmates identified as contacts to the positive cases, daily sanitisation exercises, thermal scanning of both staff and inmates, mandatory wearing of masks, utilization of full personal protection equipment in areas identified as hot zones, limited movement or transfer of prisoners and enforcement of advisories for members of staff to desist from attending work and seek medical attention at the nearest health facility if feeling unwell.”