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Covid-19 measures implemented in prisons, UN special rapporteurs told

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An inmate washes his hands with alcohol at the Preah Vihear Provincial Prison in March last year. Photo supplied

Covid-19 measures implemented in prisons, UN special rapporteurs told

The Ministry of Interior said necessary measures had been taken in prisons throughout the country to prevent Covid-19 transmissions.

The assertion came in response to a letter from Rhona Smith, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health.

In their December 4 letter, Mofokeng and Smith inquired about measures implemented at prisons following a cluster outbreak in the community on November 28, in which prisons director-general Chhem Savuth had tested positive.

Without naming Savuth, they said overcrowding in Cambodia’s prisons, which exacerbates risks of disease transmission, was a cause for concern.

“We are concerned of the risk that Covid-19, once in the prison population, may spread swiftly with devastating consequences. Preventing the spread of Covid-19 in detention centres is an issue of public health and in the interest of not only the persons deprived of liberty but also of the staff of the facilities and the general public,” the UN delegates said.

They asked the government to provide information on plans and steps taken to ensure that all detainees are granted access to Covid-19 testing and whether the government would allocate additional funds and human resources to address the issue.

“Please provide information on the measures that Your Excellency’s government will take to ensure appropriate health care for detainees in case they have contracted Covid-19 and preventative measures to control the spread of the virus,” they wrote.

The Kingdom’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva on February 1 responded with a letter from the interior ministry which explained that the General Department of Prisons had issued instructions for both preventative and responsive measures.

The general department also worked closely with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and development partners including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN agencies on the matter.

“Detainees are trained in monitoring symptoms, protective measures, reporting and proper responses. Prison staff are trained to take swab tests, package and send samples to labs, and emergency response procedures.

“Disinfectant sprays are administered weekly in prison buildings, cells, transport vehicles, health centres, and general and administrative areas in accordance with guidelines of the WHO and Ministry of Health.

“Evidently, more than 100 samples taken from detainees over suspicions due to their having symptoms similar to those of Covid-19 all tested negative while not a single case of Covid-19 among detainees in Cambodian prisons has been found,” the interior ministry said.

It said additional faucets and sinks have been installed in the general areas of prisons for hand washing along with distribution of hygiene kits. Water supplies have been increased in certain provinces where there are fewer sources of clean water.

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