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Oct 9, 2020

Belize Central Prison Placed on Full Lockdown, More COVID-19 Cases Detected

The Hattieville prison is facing a potential crisis as the corona virus spreads behind bars. Prison authorities today announced a lockdown beginning on Tuesday, October thirteenth, as more positive cases of the virus among prisoners and wardens are recorded.  Late this evening, five new cases were confirmed among ninety samples, bringing the number to twenty-one cases.  A prison warden died on Thursday, though his cause of death has still not been confirmed. News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks at the prison situation.



Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize Central Prison has instituted a complete confinement of all inmates for their own safety, following the identification of more positive cases of COVID-19 behind its walls.  For the twenty-one days that commence on Tuesday of next week, all visits, cash deposits for inmates and business transactions with customers of the prison will be suspended.  Earlier today, Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, shared the latest figures from the facility.


Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“The data I have is that we do have eight prisoners that have turned up [positive], persons involving the security measures at the Kolbe Foundation and that is mostly as a result of the sweeps done on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. This would include the initial persons that have been identified and then the further ones identified earlier in the week.”


Adhering to social distancing protocols in prison is rather difficult, if not virtually impossible, considering the fact inmates often share communal spaces including cells and other facilities.  So where on this sprawling compound are sick prisoners housed?


Virgilio Murillo

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

“We have various quarantining units depending on where they are identified.”


Isani Cayetano

“So they wouldn’t at any point while they’re positive co-mingle with the general population?”


Virgilio Murillo

“Absolutely not.  They have to wait that out until fourteen days time and after fourteen days time then we will have them do another test, a PCR test and depending on what that result is, it will determine whether you take them out and put them back in the main population or you keep them for a further fourteen days if they are positive, if they remain positive.”


The dreaded pathogen finding its way to the Belize Central Prison was inevitable, despite all previous efforts undertaken by the Kolbe Foundation to keep COVID-19 at bay.


Virgilio Murillo

“The biggest concern of mine has always been the prison staff when they are on their day off or when they leave the prison to go home.  They would act irresponsibly and go mingling with people who may possibly have the virus and then bringing it into the prison and infecting their colleagues and of course the inmates because inevitably they have to interact together.  So that is always my biggest concern and I keep emphasizing to staff that, you know, they must stay at home if they don’t need to go anywhere and of course practice all the other measures that are in place to prevent COVID-19.”


So are these measures taken by the Kolbe Foundation in conformity with regional best practices in managing an outbreak behind prison walls?


Virgilio Murillo

“Well I think, for the most part, we are doing what is required by WHO standards because the CARICOM IMPACS standards or the standards that we have in place for the region is pretty much in line with the World Health Organization standards.  The only thing we haven’t really been doing here is offering what you call video calls for prisoners and their loved ones.  They maintain telephone contact which is also one of those options available.”


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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