- There has been no Covid case among inmates in this jail in the third wave
- "Inmates were provided with two washable cloth masks, among other measures", said officials
- Authorities had stocked up on hand sanitisers, soaps and disinfectants
While every central jail here reported Covid cases among inmates during the highly-transmissible Omicron fuelled the third wave, the number 16 women's prison in Mandoli had a different story to tell.
"None of our inmates was infected, and they include small children," a senior official said, attributing the feat to strict protocols and lessons learnt from the second wave last year, which had crippled health systems across the country. Inmates and doctors at the jail told PTI that besides protocols, authorities made sure there was the availability of medicines, and teas or 'kadha' made of authorised herbs and turmeric mixed in milk were served to boost immunity.
Homeopathic medicines provided by the AYUSH ministry was also given to staffers and prisoners, they said. Established in 2017, the Central Jail No-16 or more commonly known as the Mandoli women's prison has 174 inmates, among whom 162 are under-trials and 12 convicts. There are also four inmates who are above the age of 60 years, 18 foreigners and 10 children, including five girls below six years of age.
There has been no Covid case among inmates in this jail in the third wave, but if someone is found infected, then treatment guidelines, as released by the health ministry, will be followed, officials said. However, some of our staffers became victims of the virus, they said. To prevent the spread of Covid in the prison, staffers make daily announcements to create awareness about the virus, direct inmates to maintain social distancing and provide inmates with two washable cloth masks, among other measures, said the officials of the prison, which is currently under the charge of Jail Superintendent Anita Dayal.
Learning from the second wave last year, in which people were getting infected with the Delta variant, authorities stocked up hand sanitisers, soaps and disinfectants. It was ensured everybody used hand sanitisers, masks and regularly washed their hands with soap, while disinfectants were sprayed in the jail twice every day, the officials said. The practices and measures to prevent a Covid outbreak continue, they said, adding that the prison has fewer inmates compared to other jails and this was also an advantage.
Posters mentioning 'Dos and Don'ts' were seen on walls and Dr Shweta Singh, who has been deputed in the jail for over four years, told PTI that "we still have our Covid warriors deputed in each ward to identify any inmate showing symptoms so that we can immediately seal the barrack and isolate them". Singh has treated inmates through the first and second waves of the pandemic and recalls how challenging those times were. "Many of our colleagues got infected in the second wave. We were short staffed and work was plenty," she said.
On not a single case being reported from among inmates during this wave, she gave credit to the prison administration and its efforts to continuously maintain stock of masks, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, sanitisers and other essentials. Singh also lauded the quarantine system and said it was a success in preventing the spread of Omicron.
Most inmates have been vaccinated with two doses of Covid vaccine. There are 10 inmates who have arrived and "we are trying to collect the data of the type of vaccination they have got and the number of doses to update our records", Jail Superintendent Dayal said. Recalling the care given by jail authorities when her three-year-old son tested Covid positive in the first wave, a 32-year-old inmate said, "I tested negative, but my son was so small that I had to stay with him. Following the procedure, I was allowed to attend him in the isolation area."
"Our health was monitored and my son recuperated with timely medical care," she said as her son along with his friend and elder sister played in the creche area of the jail. Another Covid survivor said, "I was infected with the disease and the medical staff here admitted me to a hospital, where I was taken good care of." Strict protocols were maintained, said a jail nursing staff, who had tested positive and was only allowed to join duty after full recuperation which took almost a month.
On measures taken to tackle Covid in jails, Director General (Delhi Prisons) Sandeep Goel, said the department was quick in responding to the threat at the time of the first wave itself. "Proactive planning and timely implementation of medical protocols helped us successfully fight the pandemic. We kept learning with experience and precautions and efforts continued during the next two waves also," he said.
This time, the women's jail also had an RT-PCR testing facility on its premises. Samples were collected, sent for testing and reports were received in 24 hours, making surveillance more efficient. On precautionary measures, Singh said the temperature and oxygen level of inmates were checked and if someone's oxygen level dropped, they were given oxygen.
"We have enough resources from oxygen cylinders to PPE to tackle the pandemic," she said. Giving credits to her predecessor and staffers, Dayal said their efforts helped tackle the third wave. According to data shared by the Delhi Prisons Department, in the third wave since December 30 last year in all prisons here, 154 inmates tested positive out of which 141 have recovered while 13 are active cases. It stated that 172 staffers got infected out of which 162 recovered and 10 are active cases.