Indrani Mukerjea, 38 jail inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Byculla jail

Mumbai: Prisons in Maharashtra have recorded 79 fresh COVID-19 cases in the last five days, including 61 inmates and 18 jail officials. For the record, until now 259 inmates and 104 jail officials in 47 prisons across the state have tested positive.

The significant spike comes on the heels of 39 inmates of Mumbai Women’s Prison at Byculla -- the most infamous of whom is Indrani Mukerjea – testing positive for the virus.

Sources in the prison department said that last week a woman tested positive for the virus and was taken to JJ Hospital. But she could not be admitted because of shortage of beds, and was later admitted at St George Hospital were she is undergoing treatment.

“We took a serious note of the inmate contracting the virus and carried out tests on close to 350 inmates in the women’s prison. Three days back, 39 inmates, including Indrani, tested positive with mild symptoms,” said a jail officer, requesting anonymity.

All the 39 inmates have been shifted to ES Patanwala Urdu School at Byculla, a temporary COVID care and quarantine centre, that has been created to accommodate inmates from the Mumbai women’s prison and Arthur Road jail as well. The facility currently houses 38 inmates from the Arthur Road prison as well, 22 of whom have tested positive, added the jail officer.

The male and female inmates are kept separately with women inmates having women personnel guarding them. "The women staff from Byculla women's prison along with staff of local arms unit of Mumbai police are stationed at the covid-centre for security," added the officer.

The facility was started after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities were instructed to prepare a covid and quarantine centre for the inmates after 182 inmates at Arthur Road prison had tested positive for the virus last year. "The centre has 26 CCTV cameras, three doctors, ward boys and cleaning staff. Apart from beds for inmates, BMC also provides breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Women inmates are currently kept on the second floor of the building," the officer said.

Mumbai women’s prison tops the list of maximum number COVID-19 positive cases, followed by Yerwada prison with 37 cases, Thane central prison and Kalyan district prison with 31, Kohlapur district prison with 28, Arthur Road prison in Mumbai with 22 inmates and Nashik Central prison with 15.

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