By Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTÁ (Reuters) – Half of the prisoners in a prison located in the Colombian city of Leticia, in the Amazon jungle that delimits the border with Brazil and Peru, tested positive for coronavirus in the most recent case showing the vulnerability of the prison population to catch it.
The National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC) reported that 89 of the 181 inmates of the Leticia city prison, the capital of the Amazonas department, are infected with COVID-19, as well as an official from the facility.
The outbreak is part of the 743 cases reported in the Amazonas department, one of the most sparsely populated in the country with around 76,000 inhabitants, and where 26 people have died from the disease, according to statistics from the National Institute of Health.
“Special containment measures have been taken in the face of the Leticia prison situation,” Colombian President Iván Duque said in his daily radio and television report on COVID-19 in the country.
The president announced that mandatory preventive isolation will be increased in that city in the Amazon and surveillance of the border will be reinforced with military personnel to avoid imported cases.
The neighboring state of Amazonas in Brazil announced in April that its health system was overwhelmed by the pandemic, with all available intensive care beds and mechanical ventilators occupied.
Manaus, a city of 2 million inhabitants, located in the heart of the Amazon rain forest of Brazil and capital of the state of Amazonas, has been particularly affected by the disease.
The outbreak in the Leticia prison exceeds the percentage registered in the Villavicencio city prison, in the department of Meta, with some 838 cases between inmates and guard personnel.
The Air Force sent a plane from Bogota to Leticia Tuesday with disinfection tools to support the fight against coronavirus, and transported 18 passengers between health professionals and Civil Defense personnel to support activities aimed at mitigating the spread and new infections.
The positive cases of COVID-19 in the Leticia and Villavicencio prisons are the most critical in the 132 Colombian prisons in which there are more than 121,000 inmates.
The number of infected people in these prisons exceeds that of many intermediate cities in the country of 50 million inhabitants, which so far has reported around 12,200 infections and 493 deaths from the pandemic.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern last week about the increase in the spread of coronavirus in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in Latin America and in prisons in the United States.
In the Ibagué prison, the capital of the department of Tolima, 22 inmates and two infected officials were reported, while in La Picota, south of Bogotá, five inmates tested positive, according to INPEC, which implemented a biosafety plan to avoid an increase in the outbreak in prisons.
(Report by Luis Jaime Acosta)
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