jail, prison, imprisonment
The highest number of COVID-19 positive prisoners are currently being kept in Sindh jails. Image Credit: iStockphoto

Islamabad: Pakistan’s total number of COVID-19 infections on Friday crossed a grim milestone of 497,210 with 2,435 new cases reported during the last twenty-four hours. Death toll caused by the virus has also surged to 10,558 — 48 fatalities reported in last one day.

According to Pakistan’s Health Ministry, there are 2,285 critical cases of COVID-19 in the country while recoveries from the virus have shown an upward trend, 3,313 in the last twenty-four hours. So far, the country has reported 453,828 persons who have recovered from the virus.

The office of the Federal Ombudsman (FO) on Friday submitted a report in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in which the plight of COVID-19-infected prisoners was highlighted.

According to the report, hundreds of the virus-infected prisoners are being kept in the country’s jails and the highest number of COVID-19 positive prisoners are currently being kept in Sindh jails (291) followed by KP prisons (126 inmates). In the Punjab jails, however, only three cases of COVID-19 are found, said the report.

The report goes on to point out that except for the jails in Balochistan where 80 COVID-19 infected prisoners are being kept, little attention is being paid to the prisoners’ condition in Sindh or KP. There are no arrangements like separate cells for the positive prisoners.

This is the 8th progress report on a suo motu notice by the Supreme Court on the plight of prisoners in jails. The report was related to the predicament of women prisoners.

In November last year, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed had issued the directions that the advocate generals of the provinces concerned should ensure implementation on the reports in their respective provinces.

Better conditions

The report submitted by the counsel of the FO also made recommendations regarding better conditions of the jails and proper arrangements about the COVID-19 positive inmates there.

The FO also suggested setting up jails in every district and in Islamabad too, adding that separate cells should be set up for women, minors and drug addicts in the prisons whereas appropriate arrangements should be made for their welfare and education.

Pakistan is expected to complete the clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine in the current week. In August last year, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had given a nod to hold the clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine in the country prepared by the Chinese firm CanSino.

The trial started in September. In December, it was decided to increase the sample size from 10,000 to 18,000. According to the VC of the University of Health Sciences (UHS) Prof Dr Javed Akram, who is also member of the Scientific Task Force on COVID-19, the trial will be completed by the end of the week.