In Punjab, 28 prison inmates test positive for coronavirus 

Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the check point of Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore on February 10, 2018. (AFP / File photo)
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Updated 05 April 2020

In Punjab, 28 prison inmates test positive for coronavirus 

  • The first confirmed case among Lahore’s inmates occurred last month in a man with a travel history to Italy
  • The Supreme Court has suspended the release of hundreds of prisoners across the country until further notice

LAHORE: The Punjab government said on Sunday the number of prisoners confirmed to have coronavirus in the province had jumped to 28 people, with over a hundred inmates suspected of having the disease placed in quarantine centers within jail compounds across the eastern city of Lahore.
Last month, panic spread in Punjab’s prison system when an inmate who was arrested after returning from Italy became the first to test positive for the virus in a Lahore prison compound housing 3,500 prisoners. There are 43 jails in Punjab with a total of 48,794 prisoners in detention, all living in close quarters. 
The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has urged countries to take immediate action to reduce the number of inmates in various detention facilities, with countries like India, US, Iran, Canada, Italy and Germany paying heed to the appeal. 
By Sunday evening, 1,380 people were confirmed to have Covid-19 in Pakistan’s most populous province, as Punjab reported its highest 24-hour surge.
All prisoners infected with coronavirus in Punjab are being kept at Camp Jail Lahore hospital, a facility especially established by the provincial government for housing and treating infected inmates, the spokesperson of the Punjab health department and focal person for coronavirus, Hafiz Qaisar told Arab News.

“28 prisoners are suffering from coronavirus and all are kept in Camp Jail, Lahore,” he said via text message.
Last month, the Islamabad, Lahore and Sindh high courts ordered the release of hundreds of prisoners in response to the UN’s warning that prisons could become hotbeds of the novel virus. Last week however, the country’s Supreme Court suspended these judgments to ascertain sounder criteria for their release.

Amir Khawaja, spokesperson for the Punjab prison department told Arab News that the screening process of inmates was still underway in Punjab’s prisons. 
“Quarantine centers have been established and suspected patients are being kept there,” Khawaja said.
According to a document available with Arab News and dated April 4, there are 182 prisoners quarantined in five specially designated barracks in Lahore. A total of 252 samples have been collected from suspected Covid-19 patients, with 131 inmates testing negative with others’ results awaited. 

Khawaja said the provincial prison department had directed all jail superintendents to establish separate coronavirus centers with at least four cells in each prison dedicated to coronavirus patients and with soap and masks made available.

“The health department is providing every required facility to prisoners. The authorities have been asked to send the samples of suspected patients and refer confirmed patients, if any, to the hospital,” Qaisar said, referring to the Lahore jail’s 100-bed hospital facility. Of these, reportedly, 40 beds are now operational.


Coronavirus takes further toll on Pakistani media 

Updated 28 May 2020

Coronavirus takes further toll on Pakistani media 

  • Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) calls on media organizations to enforce stricter safety rules
  • More than 150 journalists are known to have tested positive for COVID-19

KARACHI: Three Pakistani media staff lost their battle with the coronavirus on Thursday, as pressure is mounting on news organizations to protect their workers.
Two Radio Pakistan employees, Urdu newscaster Huma Zafar and senior broadcast engineer Muhammad Ashfaq died of COVID-19 on Thursday morning, the radio confirmed in a statement.
Also in the morning, 92 News senior reporter Fakhruddin Syed succumbed to the disease.
“Fakhruddin Syed is the first journalist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who lost his life due to this pandemic. He was one of the pioneers from 92 News HD channel,” 92 News said in an obituary on its website.
Last week, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) appealed to media organizations to enforce stricter safety rules, as more journalists have been sent into the field since the country lifted the remaining restrictions imposed on businesses to slow the pandemic.
The PFUJ’s COVID-19 committee head, Zulfiqar Ali Mehto, told Arab News on May 21 that the majority of the infected were reporters, cameramen and photojournalists, which implies that they had contracted the virus during field coverage.
Newsrooms are not safe either, according to PFUJ.
“We have rigorously worked on collecting data and have analyzed each case, which tells us that protective measures are not being taken seriously. If a single person is infected, given almost zero space between workstations, the virus may spread across the whole office,” Mehto said, adding that few media organizations provided hand sanitizers, face masks and gloves to their staff.
More than 150 journalists are known to have tested positive for the virus, according to PFUJ’s last week’s report. 
With Thursday’s victims, at least six Pakistani media workers have died of the disease.