Human rights campaigners in Malawi are calling on the government to urgently release people from its notoriously overcrowded prisons as cases of Covid-19 are rising among both staff and inmates. Seven organisations have written to the government to request the decongestion of prisons, noting that a space which is supposed to accommodate 5,000 prisoners is currently holding 14,000.
In a letter to the president, activists suggested the president consider a number of factors. “We are talking of terminally ill prisoners. We have so many prisoners with other health issues like TB (tuberculosis). We have been hearing from health experts that if this virus can is contracted by someone with certain diseases, the possibility of someone dying is very high. We are also taking of old age, we have some people are 65, 70, 80 years old who are in prison.”
Currently, 86 inmates and 21 members of staff have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Malawi prison authority’s spokesperson, Chimwemwe Shaba. There are 71 cases in one prison in Blantyre alone.