Blanket testing begins as virus hits 10,000 inmates

Blanket testing begins as virus hits 10,000 inmates

The Department of Corrections wants prisoners nationwide vaccinated after more than 10,000 were diagnosed with Covid-19 in recent tests.

Director-general of the department Ayuth Sintoppant said yesterday that inmates at high risk of severe symptoms, such as those aged over 60 or who suffer from underlying illnesses, would be separated from the main prison population and all inmates would be swab-tested every seven days.

From May 12-16, 9,783 prisoners in eight prisons were found to be infected. Chiang Mai Central Prison reported 3,929 infected prisoners out of its total of 6,469 inmates.

Mr Ayuth strongly denied allegations that the department had concealed information about the extent of infections and said the high number of cases was the result of widespread testing.

"My office will seek assistance from the Department of Disease Control to help vaccinate every prisoner as well as call for more antiviral drugs. Field hospitals will also be set up in prisons to treat the infected," Mr Ayuth said.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin yesterday said he had obtained reports that 10,384 prisoners were infected as of yesterday.

To curb the spread, he said the ministry would disclose accurate figures and initiate proactive testing for every inmate, officer and executive.

If infections keep mounting, the ministry might consider granting special parole to prisoners jailed for certain drugs offences as the narcotics code was already set to be reviewed by parliament next month.

If the law was passed, around 50,000 inmates would be entitled for parole, he said.

Meanwhile, Chiang Mai Central Prison has already established a field hospital, with the province's health chief Chatuchai Maneerat insisting that the number of infected inmates would not affect the province's Covid-19 status.

Chiang Mai was recently freed of the strictest controls after a period of falling case numbers.

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