Warders uneasy as coronavirus hits prisons

Sunday May 31 2020

Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


A wave of coronavirus infections is sweeping through prisons.

On Sunday, public health officials said that 31 prisoners at the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison, who had tested positive for Covid-19, had been evacuated to various hospitals across the country.

Three days ago, a prisoner at Embu GK Prison tested positive for the virus. In Marc, two cases were reported at Industrial Area Prison, in Nairobi, and 42 others who had come into contact with them were quarantined.

Two weeks ago, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman confirmed that two inmates at Industrial Area Remand Prison had tested positive for Covid-19.

On Sunday, he confirmed that more inmates had been tested and the Health ministry was working to contain the spread of the virus at the Industrial Area remand facility. 

As at Sunday, Kenya Prisons Service said it was 80 per cent done with work on quarantine centres in remand facilities across the country, but may put up more in full-fledged prisons if the situation worsens.



Sources within the Kenya Prisons Service, not authorised to talk to the press, confirmed to the Nation that more than 60 prisons officials, some of whom may have interacted with the patients, tested negative.  

Our sources said officers who interacted with the 31 patients have now been isolated at their quarters within the Industrial Area facility. 

Prisons senior assistant commissioner Kennedy Aluda said officers interacting with inmates wear personal protective gear.

“Officers handling inmates are in full protective gear and do not interact with other colleagues. New inmates are isolated for 14 days. Because we don’t have the capacity to handle coronavirus patients, we hand them over to the National Emergency Response team, which takes them to quarantine facilities. We deploy some of our security officers to watch them as well,” Mr Aluda said.


He confirmed that one of the patients who tested positive two weeks ago had recovered and was back to Industrial Area.

Kenyan jails have been a ticking time bomb for communicable diseases, with cholera, typhoid and tuberculosis killing dozens of inmates every year.

In situations where close confinement, shared facilities and spaces, and poor hygiene are commonplace, inmates and prison staff are living in constant fear. 

Conditions make inmates superspreaders. The outbreak is only the tip of the iceberg given the few options for safe distance in crowded cells. This is a big threat to Kenya’s 51,130 prison population.

Tracking coronavirus