ISLAMABAD: Who is patient zero of Camp Jail, Lahore and how he caught COVID-19. The mysterious prisoner has infected 58 inmates with coronavirus during the last 20 days. The camp jail has been vacated and turned into a 100-bed quarantine centre Thursday after such a large number of prisoners reported Covid-19 positive.
A total of 490 prisoners were exposed to patient zero who developed COVID-19 symptoms on March 18, 2020. He complained to the jail authorities of having fever. However, when tested his Covid-19 result came positive. The three other prisoners who were close to him also tested positive. The jail authorities then asked for tests of other inmates who were imprisoned with him in the same barracks. Initially 19 prisoners’ coronavirus test came positive.
During the probe, it came into the knowledge of the prison authorities that 490 inmates imprisoned in the nearby barracks were also exposed to the mysterious patient zero. The authorities carried out tests of all of the 490 prisoners out of which 58 inmates were reported positive with COVID-19.
It took the prison department 20 days to take decision of vacating the jail. By then 57 more prisoners have been infected. Nobody knows, what took it so long to the authorities to decide about vacating the jail as the patient zero was tested positive on March 18.
The question is who the patient zero is. According to authorities, patient zero is a Pakistani’ origin Italian national who came to Pakistan in December 2019. On March 8, 2018, he was going back to Italy when Anti-Narcotics Force arrested him, seized 6 kilogram heroin from him and sent him to Camp Jail.
Where has he caught the COVID-19? The authorities claim that his family is a frequent traveler. He caught the COVID-19 from his family which also came from Italy recently. The patient zero whose name hasn’t been disclosed developed COVID-19 symptoms 10 days after his imprisonment.
Punjab government’s Spokesperson Musarrat Cheema while talking to The News confirmed that Camp Jail has been vacated and converted into a 100-bed quarantine center.
“There are more than 2,700 prisoners in Camp Jail. The Punjab government has converted the jail into a 100-bed quarantine centre for prisoners. A medical team of Services Hospital has been assigned to look after this quarantine centre”, she informed.
Miss Cheema further confirmed that a total of 490 prisoners were exposed to patient in the Camp Jail. His movement in the jail was to three barracks attached to one another.
“Initially the tests of 19 prisoners came positive and they were quarantined there. But as of April 09, the number of COVID-19 positive prisoners has reached to 58. The remaining prisoners are being shifted to other cities including Lodhran and Hafizabad. So far 1,100 prisoners have been shifted to Hafizabad jail, 258 have been sent to Lodhran Jail whereas the rest of the prisoners are being shifted to other jails as well. There will be no prisoner in Camp Jail from today onward”, informed Miss Cheema.
When asked if there is any risk of COVID-19 spread in other jails of the province, she said every jail has the medical facilities. But keeping the COVID-19 pandemic the Punjab government has further empowered the dispensaries in the jails. “We have introduced new SOPs for jails. The jail staff as well as the prisoners has to follow these SOPs”, she said.
She further informed that the provincial government had requested the courts to release those who are imprisoned on petty crimes or those whose imprisonment period remained less than 90 day.
“As of April 09, total number of COVID-19 cases in Punjab has reached to 2166 and 17 patients have died so far. A total of 30,000 plus COVID-19 tests have been carried out in Punjab both by the government and private sector”, Musarrat Cheema informed.
The total number of tests carried out in Punjab shows that the provincial government hasn’t mass screening. The ratio of testing in developed countries is much higher than Pakistan. Punjab’s total population is more than 110 million which means the testing ratio in the province is 272 per million which is far below. This poses a great threat as according to the health experts, thousands of suspected COVID-19 patients are roaming freely in the country because of no screening.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are 48,794 inmates in different jails of Punjab out of which 47,913 are male, 881 female and 618 are juvenile — all male. The camp jail prisoners who have been shifted to other jails also pose a threat of COVID-19 spread to the inmates of host prisons.