People sick with COVID-19 symptoms in Mandalay’s Obo Prison are being denied medical treatment, according to their relatives and people assisting political prisoners.
“Prisoners are only isolated when they are suspected of contracting COVID-19. They are not given medical treatment. There might also be cases of seasonal flu because of a change in the weather. But from their symptoms, I guess they have COVID-19,” said a person who is helping political prisoners.
Over 300 inmates including political prisoners are sick in Obo Prison and are displaying common COVID-19 symptoms such as sore throat, cough, aching muscles, runny nose and high fever, he said.
“There were suspected COVID-19 deaths in jails during the second wave of coronavirus, but post-mortems were barely conducted to find out the causes of their deaths,” he added.
Some prison staff have also been infected with COVID-19 and they are also not receiving medical treatment despite serious symptoms, according to relatives of prison staff.
One prison staffer from Obo Prison who asked to remain anonymous said: “There are many people displaying COVID-19 symptoms [in Obo Prison]. Far from receiving COVID-19 tests, many are not even given paracetamol. There are also coronavirus infections among staff families. But staff are not granted leave and therefore can’t isolate.”
Prisoners are also not getting proper food in prison, he added. “It is not bad for prisoners who are visited regularly by their relatives [who bring them food]. But things are difficult for those who have no visitors,” said the prison staffer.
One Mandalay lawyer said: “I heard people are sick with flu symptoms in prison. Court hearings of some political detainees have had to be postponed because they are ill.”
Prison authorities downplayed the situation when asked by The Irrawaddy about the reports of COVID-19 infections in Obo Prison, saying that there are no coronavirus infections and that the cases are only seasonal flu.
A family member of a prisoner jailed for participating in anti-coup protests said: “I don’t know exactly what is happening inside the prison because relatives are not allowed to meet prisoners in person. But they have asked us to bring painkillers like paracetamol, as well as antifungal cream. We can only send those things through prison staff. Prison staff say they are healthy and good.”
Male prisoners in Dawei Prison in Tanintharyi Region are also reportedly sick with COVID-19 symptoms and are short of medicine. Coronavirus infections have also been reported in Monywa Prison in Sagaing Region.
Up to 10,000 inmates are normally held in central-level prisons, according to the Correctional Department’s guidelines. There are normally 7,000 prisoners in Obo Prison, which is a central-level prison.
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