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Women's Prison in Arouca.

A small riot broke out in the Women’s Prison in Arouca yesterday, following news that a prison officer had tested positive for COVID-19.

Guardian Media understands that the women began chanting “COVID is real, COVID is real” and “Stop advantaging us, stop advantaging us.”

Prison sources said the women prisoners fear an outbreak at the facility and called for an immediate intervention by the Ministry of Health and T&T Prison Service authorities.

“A riot broke out in the women’s prison as an officer got COVID-19 and there is the belief that the authorities are trying to keep it under low,” a prison source said.

As of yesterday, 52 officers and nine prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19.

A few weeks ago, prison officers called on the Ministry of Health to put the prison system on its priority list and have officers and inmates vaccinated. This call was renewed in light of yesterday’s incident. Several calls have also been made by prisoners at the Maximum Security Prison, through their attorneys, to have them vaccinated, as they are willing to be vaccinated.

A prison officer, who wished not to be named said there could be a domino effect of infections spread beyond the walls of the prison.

“Prison officers and administrative staff have families to return to. The risks to everyone, given that these persons are part of a community, may create risks of spread beyond the prison that may easily involve the community at large,” the officer said.

Acting Commissioner of Prisons Shamshudeen Mohammed confirmed the incident but said the situation was quickly brought under control. However, he ruled out there being any COVID-19 case in the women’s prison.

“The riot broke out because they didn’t want officers to conduct searches because searches are a way that we sanitise the prison from illegal contraband. But we brought the situation under control without force being used,” Mohammed said.

“There is no case of COVID-19 in the women’s prison and we are doing our part on the wearing of the required PPE. Sanitising of all prisons are ongoing and we did, in fact, sanitise the Women’s Prison this morning (Sunday) so it’s very clean and COVID-19-free.”