Minister of homeland security, Richard Chimwendo Banda , acknowledged that the situation in the the country’s prisons over Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is deteriorating because of overcrowding.
Chimwendo Banda said this as Covid-19 cases has increased among both staff and inmates.
He said a special presidential committee to look into the matter has recommended pardoning of inmates to reduce overcrowding .
“We have met three times and our last meeting was [Wednesday] and the recommendation for the actual pardoning has now been forwarded to [to the president] and we should be able to hear what comes out of there,” said Chimwendo Banda.
Currently, 107 inmates and 21 members of staff have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Malawi prison authority’s spokesperson, Chimwemwe Shaba. There are 71 cases in one prison in Chichiri, Blantyre alone where 68 inmates and three Prisons staff tested positive for Covid-19.
He said Nkhata Bay Prison has 29 cases comprising 12 inmates and 17 staff.
However, human rights campaigners believe the true numbers are likely to be higher.
Seven organisations have written to the government to request the decongestion of prisons, noting that a space which is supposed to accommodate 5,000 prisoners is currently holding 14,000.
Victor Mhango, executive director for the Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance, said: “Covid-19 is a big problem in our prisons. The figures that are coming from there are from a small sample that has been tested. Had they tested each and every prisoner, you could be surprised. The situation is just huge.”
Meanwhile, out of 21 suspects being detained at Nkhotakota Police Station have tested positive for Covid-19, according to Nkhotakota Police Station’s spokesperson, Williams Kaponda
Kaponda said the results came in Thursday adding that all four are male detainees.
The suspects have since been moved to Maula Prison in Lilongwe where there is an institutional isolation centre.
Kaponda said the cells at Nkhotakota Police Station will be disinfected.
Currently, Malawi has registered 4,361 Covid-19 cases with 128 deaths and 2,047 recoveries, according to the health ministry. But many people believe this number is an underestimate due to low testing capacity.