Jail Couldn't Contain COVID Outbreak, Forces 14 Day Lockdown
It's already jail, but tonight - owing to a COVID outbreak - the Belize
Central Prison has gone a level deeper than regular confinement - and
is back under a what is being called a "full lockdown for 14 days."
That's after an outbreak of what is believed to be the OMICRON variant
of COVID-19 among what a press release from the institution today
called: "An unusually high number of both inmates and staff."
And if you're an attorney or the family member of an inmate it may feel
like Deja Vu all over again from the last prison lockdown in November
of 2020. Cherisse Halsall spoke to the Prison CEO to ask him what
prompted the drastic measure:
"Mr. Murillo the prison has made news today because it is under full
lock down. Tell me what prompted you to take such a drastic step?"
Virgilio Murillo - Director, Belize Central Prison
"Like I said in the press release, over the last 3 days we have seen an
unusually high number of COVID-19 cases and remember push is try to
mitigate the spreading now, once you have it in the prison. We believe
that the first case was brought in by a prisoner who was sent out to
court and that is one of the risk we run having prisoners going to
court and public places because they go and mingle and may have made
contact with someone who was infected but by all indication, it would
seem based on the consultation of the prison's medical doctor and the
ministry of health based on the symptoms these inmates are displaying
and the staff are displaying, it would be the omicron variant."
"So now sir much like during the last prison lock down, there are
certain measures the visiting public has to be made aware of certain
things they cannot do now under these new circumstances, what are some
"Absolutely in the press release, I put they are not to come in person
to visit their loved one, they are not to come and make deposits for
them, we're even attorneys who may have their clients here and want to
get them out on bail, not to visit their clients at this because even
thought it is behind a glass, they still run the risk of getting
infected if the client would happen to have the virus and we would not
know because remember, some of these cases are asymptomatic, these
particular ones and this is why we quickly put the prison under lock
down is because almost all of them are symptomatic, they guys are
explaining that they have runny nose and a little soar throat and all
of those symptoms that is reflective of the omicron virus that we know
about, so that is why we decided to take this action swiftly. In
prison, it is hard because it's a congregated lot, it is harder to
prevent the spread in the prison, so the most proactive thing one can
do, is really just seal off the building where a number of infections
are discovered. At the end of the day, it's all about quarantining but
that means you have to lock the area down where movements cannot take
place from there, so the guys just have to weather the storm and wait
out the period but the virus will not remain forever, it has a certain
life span and that is why the science and experts tell you that it's
typically 10 days before they recuperate. The word lock down it just
means they are on full quarantine, no movements will be allowed, so
they can't transmit the virus to other who may not have it as of now,
so its really trying to contain the virus and make sure it doesn't
leave the particular building where we discovered the infection thus
far. Our staff who tested positive, they were immediately sent home and
they should go to quarantine for the next 10 days which is the minimum
number of days you quarantine people."
About 88% of the inmates are vaccinated.
Murillo added that no inmate is hospitalized and all infected persons
are presenting minor symptoms.