by Eliaser Ndeyanale and Victoria Wolf

Namibian Correctional Service commissioner general Raphael Hamunyela says it is difficult to isolate prison inmates because there are not enough rooms for prisoners who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Hamunyela made this comment after an official from Windhoek Correctional Facility contacted The Namibian to complain that no social distancing measures were in place at the prison and no masks were provided at the facility. 

“The inmates are overcrowded and there’s no testing happening. It’s not right and we are at risk,” the official said. 

Hamunyela said the correctional facility could not afford to buy personal protective equipment and sanitisers because “even the government cannot afford them”.

He said the prison authorities were encouraging their officials and inmates to wash their hands with soap and water.

“Those things are expensive. Imagine we have more than 4 000 inmates at Windhoek Correctional Facility alone. Is it [sanitisers] even needed? We encourage them to wash their hands with soap,” he said.

On social distancing, especially when inmates are being transported in a van when taken to hospital or court, Hamunyela said it was not necessary to observe social distancing as inmates were treated like people from the same house.

“These people are from the same cordoned area – no need to seperate them. Covid-19 is brought in by people who are coming in from outside, including our officials. Every day we are getting new people from outside,” he stated.

Hamunyela confirmed in August that 100 inmates at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus. 

On Thursday he said 80% of those inmates have recovered, adding that only 13 prisoners have not yet recovered.

During a Covid-19 briefing last month, health minister Kalumbi Shangula said the risk of infection in prisons was particularly high. 

“It is imperative that people in places like prisons, holding cells, hospitals, hostels, police camps and military barracks observe more precautionary measures as the risk of fast transmission among a number of people is very high in these settings,” Shangula said.

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