Rwanda's prisons hit hard by Covid-19

Tuesday November 17 2020
Rwanda Covid-19 screening.

Rwanda’s coronavirus infections have been increasing, with prisons becoming a hotspot for new infections. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Rwanda’s coronavirus infections have been increasing, with prisons becoming a hotspot for new infections and deaths.

According to Health officials, Covid-19 outbreaks were reported in the three large and most populated prisons in the country—Rwamagana prison in the eastern province, Mageragere prison in the Kigali city, and Muhanga prison in the south. 

Rwanda has lost 10 people to coronavirus since the beginning of this month, while 359 new coronavirus infections were recorded. Most of these infections were recorded in prisons and high-risk zones.

Rwamagana prison takes a lead with nine lives lost since November 9, while Kigali prison leads with high infections at 129 cases recorded from November 10 to date.

“The death rate and the Covid-19 infections have gone up…mainly from the prisons. Most of the casualties we have seen were having underlying conditions,” Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the director-general of Rwanda Biomedical Center, told The EastAfrican

Rwanda Biomedical Center and the prisoners’ management agency ― Rwanda Collection Service – have beefed up measures to curb the spread of the virus. 


Among the key interventions is increasing the numbers of health service providers and the quality of the services in the prisons. 

According to Mr Nsanzimana, after the Covid-19 infections were recorded in prisons, the Ministry of Health set up facilities within all the jails to provide medical attention to inmates.

 “We deployed more medical service providers and set up quarantine rooms within the prisons and upped their health services. As of now, even those who need intensive care are being treated in the prisons as the ventilations are available in the prisons among other equipment to avoid the spread of the infection,” he said.

Health officials said they conduct daily screening to high risks groups, which comprises those living in groups like prisoners, people whose daily activities put them at risk of contracting the Covid-19, and cross-borders truck drivers.

Besides cancelling visitations in prisons, there are special isolation facilities at every prison countrywide where newly arrived inmates isolate for two to three weeks before they join other inmates.

“As the new cases were discovered in new inmates who were tested while in isolation facilities, we have subsequently started off mass testing, which is underway in various prisons across the country,” Senior Superintendent of Prisons Pelly Uwera Gakwaya, the RCS Spokesperson, told The EastAfrican.