The authorities of the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz confirmed this Saturday an “epidemiological outbreak” of COVID-19 in the Palmasola prison, the largest and most conflictive in the country after 25 inmates tested positive and confirmed that two deceased inmates also had the disease. last week.
The government secretary of the Santa Cruz Governorate, Vladimir Pena, explained to the media that 45 inmates suspected of having the disease were sampled, testing positive for 25, and it was also confirmed that two inmates who died a few days ago had COVID-19. According to Pena, 22 patients remain isolated from the rest of the population within the same prison.
“By having an epidemiological outbreak inside the Palmasola prison, some measures have been activated,” including the installation of two care centers within the same prison, one for suspected cases and the other for confirmed cases, he said. It is planned to have a hundred beds in these centers to serve infected prisoners.
The official also indicated that he coordinates with the General Directorate of Penitentiary Regime and the Mayor’s Office of Santa Cruz to establish medical shifts that guarantee 24-hour health care within the prison. “The other measures are containment to avoid interrelation within the different pavilions that the prison has,” said Pena.
Regional authorities also called on their judicial counterparts to expedite the pardon and amnesty procedures “to be able to remove people in risk groups from the prison, such as pregnant inmates or those with underlying illnesses,” he added.
Two inmates who died with symptoms of COVID-19 set off alarms in Palmasola, the largest penitentiary in Bolivia with more than 5,000 inmates, and considered the most conflictive in the country due to recurring episodes of trafficking in narcotics and weapons inside and attempts to escape.
The inmates protested last Monday to demand health care and streamline criminal proceedings so that those who have already served their sentences can leave prison. The situation led to the dismissal of the prison governor, Wilfredo Coca, for not having taken the necessary measures against the disease.
Since last March, when the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Bolivia, visits to the country’s prisons have been restricted to prevent the virus from reaching these centers, although the entry of food is allowed.
The situation in Palmasola highlighted the problems that have persisted in Bolivian prisons for years, such as the overcrowding caused by the delay in judicial processes.
The most recent data on the Penitentiary Regime indicates that in Bolivia there are 18,108 people deprived of liberty, of which 6,423 have a sentence and 11,685 are in preventive detention.
Bolivia reports 152 deaths and 3,372 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, according to official data, in a country of about eleven million inhabitants.