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Mar 17, 2020

Prison Prepares for COVID-19

Belize remains coronavirus free tonight and measures are being put in place to strengthen the health system as the virus threat hovers over the country. Government has already banned events of more than one hundred persons to minimize the risks of the virus, including the closure of schools up until the Easter Holidays.  Today, News Five’s Hipolito Novelo headed to the Belize Central Prison to find out how the prison will cope with the crowded cells.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

While Belize has yet to confirm a positive coronavirus case, the looming COVID-19 crisis has the country on the edge. The government of Belize has put in place several measures and so has the Kolbe Foundation at the Belize Central Prison. With a dense population of one thousand and forty inmates including the youths at the Wagner’s Youth Facility, C.E.O. Virgilio Murillo says the threat to these prisoners comes from outside the prison walls.


Virgilio Murillo

Virgilio Murillo, C.E.O., Kolbe Foundation

“Natural we knew from the get-go that the threat to the prisoners are not really by them but is rather those persons who are allowed to come to visit the prison whether they are legal advisors, family or friends.”


To prevent the deadly virus from entering the prison, two weeks ago members of the Kolbe Foundation met to decide on a set of procedures that would be followed as preventative measures.


Virgilio Murillo

“We implemented those things since Monday. One of the things is to have installed two hand wash basins. One for the staff and the visitors to wash their hands before entering the prison. The inmates as well once they are being admitted into the prison they must wash their hands as well as law enforcement personnel who come to escort these prisoners to prison they will be required to wash their hands at those wash hand basins. We are doing other things such as education the staff and the inmates in what the coronavirus is and its effects, symptoms and those kind of things. We are in the educating phase of it currently trying to let them be aware. We have other preventive practices and measures in place such as asking them to clean the door knobs and the handles and even sanitizing the transportation that transport staff and inmates to and from prison.”


C.E.O. Murillo says that staff will be screened. A memo will be circulated later this week informing prison staff that family visits will be suspended for thirty days.


Virgilio Murillo

“We did plan to suspend visits at least for one month in the first instance and then we will reevaluate the situation depending on what is happening in the country. As I just thought it was prudent to implement the suspension on that temporary basis because I think yesterday you beard the Prime Minister was on the radio and he had made the decision to clothes school fourteen days ahead of time and I think it was just prudent because of the dense population and the close proximity with which prisoners reside. It is just more prudent and wise to implement that.”


New inmates will be quarantined. In the event that a resident at the prison becomes infected, Murillo says there is an action plan to prevent an outbreak.


Virgilio Murillo

“One of the situations would be after he confirms it we will get the person to the K.H.M.H. We have established one section of the prison to serve as isolation block and that is to isolate the new admissions, those persons coming in brand spanking new to ensure that they are okay. So they will be isolated in one block and if there is a person displayed the symptoms strongly that person will be quarantined in the first instance and test will be taken and sent to be tested and once it comes out positive they will be sent to start their treatment I guess to the K.H.M.H.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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