Covid-19 invades Walvis jail

By Maria Kandjungu

TWO offenders at the Walvis Bay correctional facility have tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the first cases among prison inmates Confidente can reveal.

This was confirmed by the Namibia Correctional Services (NCS) Commissioner General Raphael Hamunyela who added that the pair was part of the initial 22 isolated offenders who were suspected to have come in contact with the first two facility officials who tested positive early last month.

Hamunyela stated that the offenders are case number 42, a 40-year-old male, who tested positive about two weeks ago and a contact of case number 34. The second case he says was confirmed on Monday involving a 46-year-old male offender.

The number of correctional officials who tested positive has also risen to five confirmed cases with 77 staff members being placed in quarantine. Currently the facility has about 55 offenders in isolation.

Confidente understands that most of the offenders in isolation are mostly confined in one cell posing a high risk of transmission. Hamunyela admitted that there is a high possibility that most of the first 22 offenders to be quarantined may later test positive.

“At the moment offenders cannot be released from the isolation cells after 14 days because more are being brought in. You will end up releasing one after 14 days and then bring him back again later,” he explained.

While they have put up all the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, isolation is difficult among offenders, he added.

He further noted that reducing the number of offenders is also not possible at the moment as they cannot be sent to other prisons where they may pose a health risk and fast spread the virus to other facilities.

He however revealed that there are a few places in Walvis Bay that were being renovated to be turned into correctional facilities.

“We are now looking at fast-tracking construction and the renovation process in order to create more space for offenders to avoid the current congestion in the cells.”

“We have given them reusable masks and more cleaning materials to ensure that their facilities are cleaned at all time. We have also put in place running water and soap in cells to ensure that they can wash their hands as many times as possible. Sanitisers, those we cannot afford,” said Hamunyela.