Protecting detainees during COVID-19: Isolation centres inaugurated in Bangladesh’s prisons

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An outbreak of COVID-19 in a prison can be devastating for both the prison population and prison staff. This is especially true for overcrowded facilities where the healthcare system is overburdened. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continues to support the Prisons Directorate in Bangladesh to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within prison facilities.

Three COVID-19 isolation centres (70-bed centre in the central jail of Keraniganj, 41-bed centre in Feni District Jail-2, and 28-bed centre in Kishoreganj District Jail-2) have been recently inaugurated by His Excellency Asaduzzaman Khan, the minister of home affairs.

These centres are a result of close cooperation between the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), the Prisons Directorate, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the ICRC.

Elaborating on the ICRC's support to help set up COVID-19 isolation centres in three prisons, Katja Lorenz, head of the ICRC's delegation in Bangladesh, said, "Prisoners are among the most vulnerable population when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. Hence, it is essential for the prisons to be able to separate those who have caught the virus from the rest of the prison population."

"Our support included designing and setting up the centres and providing technical support to establish guidelines and to implement infection prevention and control measures. We also provided basic medical and sanitation equipment as well as furniture."

Brigadier General Md Mominur Rahman Mamun, Inspector General of Prisons, said, "The Prisons Directorate has been consistently working since the beginning of the pandemic to develop an efficient and comprehensive system to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons. These constant efforts involve all the Prisons Directorate staff, from headquarters to prison guards."

"This work has been supported by different partners (including the MoHA, the MoHFW, and the ICRC) present from the very start and actively involved in different projects such as training sessions on precautionary measures against COVID-19 for prison staff, regular distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) in all 68 prisons and the renovation and establishment of three isolation centres for detainees who have COVID-19."

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh in 2020, the ICRC has cooperated with the Prisons Directorate to identify the most important needs of the response to the pandemic in the prisons.

We have provided continuous support to the Prisons Directorate to assist both prisoners and prison staff, including, in 2021, providing PPE to select prisons and the Prisons Directorate headquarters. We are currently putting together additional assistance for all 68 prisons across Bangladesh (as requested by the Prisons Directorate) in response to the latest wave of the pandemic.