Malawi Prison Service (MPS) has embarked on mass Covid-19 testing exercise as it strives to keep coronavirus at bay.
The security institution’s spokesperson Chimwemwe Shaba said they have started with Zomba Central Prison, where 17 people have already tested positive for coronavirus.
“Out of the 17, 15 are inmates while two are warders. We are isolating them, in line with health authorities’ guidance. We are engaging district health offices to do mass testing of all prison formations in their councils.
“There are regional Covid-19 isolation centres in Thyolo; we have reserved space at Chichiri [Blantyre Prison] and a women’s section in Lilongwe has also been reserved as a Covid-19 isolation centre,” he said.
Shaba said authorities were ready to safeguard service providers and service users’ lives.
He said this was being done to ensure that those going in, and those coming out of, prison premises were safe from Covid-19.
“You have to know that prison is at the receiving end of the criminal justice system; so, we have no control of who comes [in] and who goes [out]. Also bear in mind that, while some are being pardoned, the law is not dead. The law is still functioning and while others are going out others are coming in,” Shaba said.
Before the second wave of Covid-19, the country’s prisons had registered 463 cases of Covid-19, with two fatalities.
Meanwhile, Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance Executive Director Victor Mhango has urged the government to pardon more prisoners to create breathing space in prison cells.
He said the number of prisoners that former president Peter Mutharika and the incumbent Lazarus Chakwera pardoned was on the lower side and could, therefore, not lead to prison decongestion.
“There are people who are old and are critically sick there. There are people who are there because of offences that are not serious. Let them go [home] so that we have space and prisoners live in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines,” he said.