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 Covid-19 on Wednesday and Thursday, this week.

This has been confirmed by the acting Commissioner of Prisons, Dennis Pulchan, in a telephone interview with Guardian Media.

Commissioner Pulchan explained that these inmates are the ones who were 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 full-scale contamination in the 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 also are 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. 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 were tested positive and 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.

“They were immediately relocated to the Claxton Bay Correctional Facility, our official covid-19 treatment centre, and contact tracing was initiated,” Commissioner Pulchan said.

Pulchan noted the concerns of relatives and friends and is assuring all that the affected persons are being observed and monitored daily. Also, 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,” he said. “Also, daily sanitization 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.”

Pulchan said as of Monday, the Prison Service had recorded a total of 57 positive cases throughout the nation’s prisons, with 15 making full recoveries thus far.