Prison outbreaks a worry, says dept

Prison outbreaks a worry, says dept

Denies activist Rung caught virus in jail

The Corrections Department admits that the Covid-19 outbreak in prisons is worrying, but insists it can bring the situation under control.

Department deputy director-general Weerakit Harnpariphan said nearly 3,000 infected inmates have been found at two prisons, which poses a tough challenge to the department. Last year just 10 infections were reported.

He said the Medical Correctional Institution may not have enough medical personnel and equipment to deal with so many cases.

Currently, the department is speeding up procurement of additional supplies of the anti-viral drug Favipiravir and medical supplies including ventilators, protective gear, and rapid testing kits, among other items, he said.

Mr Weerakit also expressed concern about the highly contagious Covid-19 variant which is slow to show symptoms and can have severe complications.

He said plans are afoot to increase the capacity of field hospitals set up outside the two prisons to accommodate seriously ill patients, install high-flow oxygen systems and more ventilators, and vaccinate inmates.

Mr Weerakit also denied a report that protest leader Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, who was released recently, caught Covid-19 in prison. A test on April 23 confirmed she was free of the disease, he said.

Other detainees in her cell and 1,500 new inmates at the Central Women's Correctional Institution also tested negative, Mr Weerakit said.

Ms Panusaya was released on May 6, 13 days later.

He confirmed that another detained protest leader, Panupong Jadnok, had caught Covid-19 and had been admitted to the Medical Correctional Institution.

A total of 2,835 inmates at Bangkok's two main prisons -- Bangkok Remand Prison and the Central Women's Correctional Institution -- have been found infected with Covid-19.

Corrections Department director-general Aryut Sinthoppan revealed the infections on Wednesday after Ms Panusaya marked her release on bail by telling her Facebook followers that she had contracted the virus.

Mr Aryut said mass testing on prison officials and inmates had found 1,795 prisoners at Bangkok Remand Prison and 1,040 at the Central Women's Correctional Institution to be infected.

He said the outbreak at the women's prison came from new inmates, but at Bangkok Remand Prison it was brought in by staff.

Patients showing symptoms were admitted to the Medical Correctional Institution and asymptomatic patients were placed in field hospitals set up in the prison compound.

Mr Aryut said the department would take nasal swabs and X-ray the lungs of all inmates as soon as possible.

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