Five prison officers at the Belize Central Prison have tested positive for Covid-19. Health officials have identified the point of contact as being a prison officer of Yo Creek Village, Orange Walk District who began displaying symptoms in mid-September. The guard, whose wife was also tested positive for Covid-19 was on leave and upon his return, prior to being tested, he had passed on the virus to four other officers. Love News spoke with the prison’s Chief Executive Officer, Virgilio Murillo.
Virgilio Murillo, Director, Belize Central Prison: “Alright we had one of our staff who had gone off duty around the 15th of September. He lives up north in the Orange Walk district and it so happened that sometime around the 15th and the 20th of September he began experiencing symptoms that would be COVID like and he went to do a test. He went to get swabbed I think on the 22nd there about and on the 28th he had his result returned and he tested positive for COVID-19. As a result of that the prison immediately began to do their contact tracing as they call it and we started to investigate who all may have been in contact with this particular guard and we gathered a bunch of names of all those persons who he interacted with or he had contact with while he was working his shift right up until the 15th when it came to an end. We tested thirty guards, we came up with thirty guards as a result of that situation and we tested them two days ago. It came up out of the thirty four have tested positive as being asymptomatic of COVID-19 because thus far according to the medical officer they’re not displaying any flu like symptoms at all or any COVID symptoms but they were tested positive the results came back positive for them as asymptomatic. We still have one result pending that has not been evaluated as yet so we’re waiting for that one too.”
CEO Murillo had long implemented measures at the prison to avoid the entry of the coronavirus. Visitations had ceased among other measures over the last few weeks. Murillo says he has accepted the inevitable and is currently looking at ways to mitigate a widespread. He added that while only the guards have been tested, testing for the prisoners will commence on Monday.
Virgilio Murillo, Director, Belize Central Prison: “He had contact with prisoners as well because inevitably he has to patrol, inevitably he has to search and escort prisoners and supervise prisoners but we do have a mandatory mask wearing around the prison by staff so they have to wear their mask at all times once they’re in and around the prison and even on public transport they exercise and enforce that policy from the get go. But he was like I said inevitably he has to supervise in the course of his duties he has to supervise prisoners so it’s inevitable aside from being among his fellow colleagues.”
Reporter: Was there any contact tracing done with the prisoners ?
Virgilio Murillo, Director, Belize Central Prison: “We’re jumping on that on Monday. He did interact in a couple of the buildings so the doctor is gonna start his contact tracing of some prisoners come Monday so that is what he planned to do. Certainly this is where we are currently.”
Reporter: But to date nobody is showing any symptoms?
Virgilio Murillo, Director, Belize Central Prison: “Absolutely nobody not even the four guys that came back positive and strangely these four guys just came back on shift Wednesday and they’re from varying districts; one is from Cayo district San Ignacio particularly. One is all the way from PG. One is from the Guinea Grass area and the other one is from the Corozal district so it’s kinda baffling to us. Right now we have done what we need to do which is to send them off to go into isolation and weather the storm or wait out the period that they ought to wait out and then go back and get their subsequent swabbing after fourteen days.”
Reporter: And how does that affect the prison in terms of human resources ?
Virgilio Murillo, Director, Belize Central Prison: “Currently it’s not affecting us but we need to monitor it and that is why we immediately sent home the four that their results came back positive today for them to go a nd quarantine. So currently we’re still okay. If it would get out of hand, God forbid , then it could certainly affect us in man power but we’re in mitigating mode now and I don’t believe that it should get any worse than this.”
The prison guards who have tested positive are from various districts including Toledo and Cayo. The Belize Defence Force (BDF) is also facing a similar situation where members of a battalion stationed in the north had also contracted the virus. Love News is following the developments at these two entities.