As many as 78 inmates lodged in Central Jail Srinagar have tested positive for COVID-19 till Sunday, Rising Kashmir has learnt.
This is the second prison in Kashmir where the coronavirus has spread while the prison authorities are following protocol to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
"The samples of some 311 inmates in Central Jail Srinagar were taken for COVID-19 testing and out of them 78 returned positive, all asymptomatic, till Sunday. They have been isolated," a senior officer said.
The authorities have already stopped mulakaat (physical contact) between the jail inmates and their families in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus in jails.
"However, any essential thing like clothes, if any inmate's family brings, are allowed. The things are not being directly given to the inmates, kept away for a few days and then washed to ensure it doesn't carry the virus," the officer said.
The decision of allowing meetings between the jail inmates and their families would be taken accordingly when the COVID situation improves, he said.
In July, coronavirus first spread in Anantnag district jail in south Kashmir where 96 prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19 out of 193, following which the Prisons department declared a separate temporary jail where only symptomatic patients were shifted while asymptomatic patients were isolated and put under treatment in Anantnag jail itself.
"Now, all those COVID-19 positive inmates have tested negative and they were shifted back to Antantnag jail," the officer said.
Among the first batch of COVID-19 positive prisoners was Zahoor Ahmad Bhat of Trehgam, Kupwara.
Bhat, who is brother of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front founder Muhammad Maqbool Bhat, was detained under PSA in 2018 and since then he is under preventive detention.
There are 3628 prisoners lodged in 14 jails in J&K including over 400 in Srinagar central jail.
"The testing of remaining inmates is underway. Those who test positive are being isolated. If any inmate requires treatment in the hospitals outside the jail, they are being referred on doctors' recommendations," said an official.
He said the lodgements in jails was an ongoing process and new inmates were being put under quarantine in jails while all necessary precautions including maintenance of hygiene were being followed to stop the spread of virus in the jails.
So far, no COVID-19 positive cases have been reported from sub-jail Kupwara and Baramulla, the official said.