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Oct 30, 2020

Can COVID-19 Spread Be Contained at Belize Central Prison?

Virgilio Murillo

With ninety-cases detected in a round of rapid testing – we asked Murillo what is accounting for the spread and how are they handling the cases? He says that the Ministry of Health is providing tremendous support to help the prison contain the spread and he is positive that with the quarantine in place they will stop it all together. But he notes that while they are working towards that – he also recognizes the need for a health worker at the prison.


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

“There is a bunch of things that plays out; first of all, the close proximity of prisoners and not being able to social distance. Remember, we are still re-admitting prisoners who go for their trial right up to the twenty-seventh we were still re-admitting them. They were people who were going before the judge to find out if they can get bail; people who may have appealed their cases and after being in the prison for a year or so, they finally have to go out to hear why they should be granted bail. Even if it is for trial, they have to come back and when they leave from here they are in the custody of the police and then when they go to the court, God knows who they associate with and what they do. We cannot really isolate them for fourteen days because there are times when they have to right back to court in the next week or following day. So, there is a possibility that they may be the ones who brought it back in when they got to their cell they infected the other guys.  The Ministry of Health has certainly gotten closer to the prison especially since the twenty-seventh since these ninety cases turned up. They are helping us in just about every way possible to mitigate the spread. And when I say help us, aside from testing; we are talking about things like medication; vitamins; sanitizers; protective equipment; in everywhere possible. We have had other measures in place all along but it is this solid twenty-four hours a day seven days a week quarantining that will make all the difference. We will be retesting when the time has passed and we will see the results. As of today, we have had nineteen recovered cases. Of the quarantine, it does work of that I have no doubt about that in my mind.  One of the things, after analyzing the situation, it would look like we would need to have a full time health officer at the prison probably conducting rapid tests on maybe incoming staff who are beginning their shifts and inmates who are being discharged just to make sure they are not taking this virus out with them. That is pretty much one of my suggestions and I do plant to communicate with Dr. Manzanero to see if that is a possibility.”

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