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Chicken pox keeps detainees from court

PORT OF SPAIN — No prisoners were brought to the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court for a third day yesterday, after reports of a chicken pox outbreak at the State Prison in Port-of-Spain and at the Golden Grove Prison.

Despite denials by prisons officials that there was no “outbreak” and the situation had been contained as infected prisoners had been isolated, magistrates continued to remand prisoners in absentia.

This is after a decision was taken by officials not to bring prisoners to court because of the risks involved, including exposure to prison officers, police officers, court staff and other members of the public who attend court daily.

Although police officers and other court staff continue to call for an intervention by the ministry of health, officers yesterday said health officials were yet to visit the court.

Reporters attending court daily were also advised to get vaccinated immediately, which was facilitated by the ministry. On Monday, acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Akenath Misir said the situation was not as bad as was being reported.

Misir revealed that following advice, court officials had already conducted sanitisation at the court, while other measures were still being put in place. He said prisoners diagnosed with chicken pox have been already isolated from the remaining prison population, and that health officials were working alongside infirmary officers at the prison to contain the spread of the virus.

Although officials were set to begin vaccinating all staff at the prison on Monday, Misir stressed: “Normally, we would only vaccinate front line workers who are exposed but we are also offering it to police officers who transport and handle prisoners.” Misir said prisoners with lesions about their bodies were not being allowed to attend court, so as to curb the spread of the virus.

While operations at the court slowed considerably in the last two days, officers and magistrates both agreed that in the interest of their safety and health, it was necessary to introduce measures which minimised exposure to infected people. (Guardian)

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