AS many as 18 inmates from Akola District Prison tested positive for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Wednesday, taking the number of cases among prison inmates in Maharashtra to 311. However, of these, only 56 cases remain active as of Thursday, said state prison officials.
Akola District Prison is the 11th prison in Maharashtra to report Covid-19 cases till now.
As per the data till Wednesday night, of the total 311 inmates and 78 prison staff who have tested positive in the state, 255 and 70, respectively, have recovered. The maximum positive cases are from Mumbai Central Prison, better known as Arthur Road Jail, where 181 inmates and 39 staff have been infected till now, of whom 151 and 37 have recovered.
According to prison officials, initially a couple of inmates tested positive in Akola District Prison, after which a number of high-risk contacts of those inmates were isolated and tested. Sixteen more inmates tested positive on Wednesday. All the Covid- positive inmates and their contacts have been isolated from the main prison premises and lodged in dedicated isolation and quarantine facilities. Akola District Prison has a sanctioned capacity of 200 inmates but as on Tuesday, it housed 378 inmates.
In the third week of March, the Maharashtra Department of Prisons and Correctional Services had initiated the process of decongesting state prisons by initially releasing undertrial inmates on conditional bail as an emergency measure. From May 11, the Prison department also started releasing convict inmates on emergency parole.
Nearly 17,000 inmates from the pre-lockdown prisoner population of over 36,000 are targeted to be released as a decongestion measure. Temporary release of over 10,000 has been completed till now.
Maharashtra was one of the first states in the country to adopt the decongestion process in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. A senior official from the Prison department said in almost all affected state prisons, officials have managed to contain the infection to the first lot that has got infected.
Four inmates have succumbed to the infection so far — two in Taloja Central Prison and one each in Yerawada and Dhule prisons. The Yerawada Central Prison, which has the highest population of inmates in the state, has not reported any case till now other than one inmate who was isolated in April following breathing problems, and tested positive after his death in the second week of May. Other than Mumbai Central Prison, a significant number of Covid-19 cases has been detected in Solapur, Aurangabad and Satara prisons.
One of the key measures taken by Prison department was setting up of temporary prisons across the state, and till now 36 temporary prisons have been designated, which are currently housing over 2,200 inmates.
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