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Apr 6, 2020

Belize Central Prison Aims to Remain COVID-Free

The Belize Central prison is bursting at its seams with the number of inmates behind bars. The recent arrests of state of emergency offenders have swollen the number to about one thousand one hundred and fifty.  There are no known inmates infected with the corona virus, but the facility is getting ready for the likelihood that when there is a positive case, the virus will spread rapidly. So the inmates have found a way to produce masks and they are bringing them out as fast as they can for the prison population as well as for those private organizations. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

From the confines of the Belize Central Prison, face masks are being churned out at a rate of several hundred per day.  Since last Wednesday, a team of fifteen inmates has been working diligently in a manufacturing line that sees them all cutting, sewing and finalizing handmade protective face covering.


Virgilio Murillo

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

“We saw the need for masks because we, ourselves, never had any.  We ran low and we saw it as an opportunity to start making them.  So we got a model and I think we did a YouTube and we saw how it was being manufactured by other entities and we thought that we had the human resources, the manpower to do so, so why not jump on the bandwagon and start making?”


And supplying the prison staff with these reusable masks was the first order of business for the Kolbe Foundation once it began making them in large volumes.  Aside from these personal items, the prison has seriously stepped up its own security protocol in anticipation of a possible COVID-19 case behind its walls.


Virgilio Murillo

“We have added some additional precautions, remember three weeks ago or four weeks ago we had started by the rigid hand washing and then we upped it to the screening later on and then since Friday we have increased our vigilance in terms of sterilizing or sanitizing these areas that are being touched constantly by inmates and staff, particularly the area that inmates are being searched, inmates and staff are being searched.  We’ve started to sanitize vehicles entering the prison as well because they could very well have the virus on their tires and underneath and even on the body of the vehicle.  So we’re spraying that, I think you saw that when you came in just a while ago.”


Beyond the fumigation of vehicles entering the facility, all persons are required to wash their hands upon entry, prior to a mandatory screening exercise.  It’s part of the prison’s recent take-no-chance policy.


Virgilio Murillo

“We have ramped up the screening, the COVID screening, testing for fevers or abnormal temperature I should say and the whole screening process to try and ascertain whether a person is likely to have contracted the COVID-19 virus.”


Isani Cayetano

“You have designated an area of the prison to be used for isolation purposes.  Can you speak to that?”


Virgilio Murillo

“Yes, we have, that’s an additional measure and we have put that into full use since Friday.  So every new admission that comes to the prison after they are thoroughly screened and sanitized, if that is the case, they are placed in that areas so that the doctor can monitor them and see if over time they are displaying any symptoms at all.”


Back on the production row, these tailors are busy sewing, while their fellow teammates handle other aspects of the assembly.


Virgilio Murillo

“We have produced almost four thousand masks since we have started this operation last week and we have sold some to the police and other private entities on the outside, all of them being done through Rotary Club of Belize because you know we have that partnership with Rotary, as a matter of fact, Kolbe is Rotary.”


Supplying the outside world is one thing, but preparing the Belize Central Prison for a coronavirus eventually is quite another.  So, how ready is the facility for such an outcome?


Virgilio Murillo

“The prison is a society just like any other society and I believe it’s just a matter of when and we are doing our utmost but, like you know, no man is an island.  Whatever measures we have instituted, I will tell though, is geared towards preventing it all together.  As a matter of fact, I feel very good that we had started our partial lockdown, I think at least two weeks before the first case was discovered in Belize so I think that gives us, you know, a little edge there because at least what we know so far, whatever we have in here, whomever we have in here since Friday, we know that they are COVID-19 free.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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