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Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren wearing the traditional Adivasi cloth arrives to pay tribute to Nilambar Pitambar at Nilambar pitambar park, Morabadi on the day of World Adivasi day, in Ranchi on Sunday. Image Credit: ANI

Patna: Authorities have ordered an investigation after 248 prisoners out of total 350 lodged in a jail in Jharkhand tested positive for COVID-19 on a single day, causing panic among the inmates. The health department has opened a special COVID-19 care centre in the prison in view of the outbreak.

All inmates found COVID-19 positive were lodged in the Godda jail in Jharkhand. The virus has also spread to nine other jails in the state, prompting the jail authorities to ban visitors.

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“We didn’t think such a large number of prisoners would be infected with COVID-19. A probe is already on to find out how inmates in such large numbers got infected in one go,” local civil surgeon Dr Shiva Prasad Mishra told the media on Saturday. Initial reports, he added, indicated that the virus was spread by two COVID-19 positive prisoners in the jail.

Reports quoting unnamed officials, however, say the large number of prisoners came in the grip of the deadly virus as the jail authorities didn’t follow COVID-19 protocols, which lay stress on wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing. Reports said the Godda jail had the capacity to keep 300 prisoners but currently has 350 prisoners are lodged there.

Security reasons

The civil surgeon also informed that a special care centre had been made operational in the jail keeping in view the safety of the prisoners. “Since such a large number of prisoners can’t be shifted into a dedicated COVID-19 hospital due to security reasons, we have set up a COVID care centre there itself,” CS Mishra explained.

Godda is not the lone jail in the grip of virus. Nine other jails in Jharkhand too have been battling hard to prevent the spread of virus among the prisoners. The worst affected among them are Central Jail at Ranchi and the divisional jail at Pakur, where more than 60 and 40 prisoners, respectively, were found to have contracted the virus.

Two high profile prisoners found infected with COVID-19 are former minister Enos Ekka, sentenced to seven years imprisonment in a murder case, and Raja Pitar, criminal-turned-politician who hit the headlines when he defeated Jharkhand’s former chief minister Shibu Soren leading to his resignation from the post.

With the overall situation turning serious, jail authorities have banned visitors. The jail administration is also providing herbal juice, vitamin C, warm water with lemon juice and other herbs to the prisoners to improve their immunity.

COVID-19 has claimed 189 lives and also infected 16,534 people in the state so far.