Forty Lao Prisoners Found Infected With COVID-19

Forty Lao prisoners held in a detention center in the capital Vientiane have been found infected with COVID-19 and are being denied contact with relatives or other outside visitors, Lao sources said.

Arrested without health checks, many of those sent to the Xaysettha district jail were confined in a single room with other criminals, some of them already infected, and the infection then spread rapidly to the others, an official source said.

“The police had arrested some drug traffickers, and some of them were already infected with COVID-19,” the official told RFA on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They were never examined or separated, but were just put into the jail,” he said, adding that the infected prisoners are not allowed now to receive visits from family members or others from the outside.

It was not immediately clear if the infected group, which was identified during an inspection of the jail on Tuesday by municipal authorities, has now been kept apart from other prisoners in the facility, however.

Also on Tuesday, 12 soldiers were found infected at an army camp in Savannakhet province in southern Laos, with authorities there saying some of the men may have caught the virus outside the camp and then spread it on their return.

“Only a small number of the soldiers are infected, and they may have caught the virus from infected members of their families,” one camp official said, also declining to give his name.

“Authorities are now taking them for treatment at clinic shelters outside the camp, and are limiting their contact with others,” he said.

On Aug. 29, a group of about 20 prisoners escaped from a provincial prison in Savannakhet out of fear they would become infected with COVID-19 behind bars, but were quickly recaptured by authorities, sources told RFA in an earlier report.

The prisoners broke out of the Provincial Detention Center at 1:00 a.m., but pursuing guards fired warning shots, and all escapees were back in custody around 40 minutes later.

Many villagers in southern Lao provinces now say they are short of food and other essentials due to prolonged and strict government-ordered coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, preventing people from working and closing most markets and stores.

The impoverished, landlocked country of 7.4 million people saw a spike in outbreaks beginning in April after managing to evade infections for nearly a year.

Laos has recorded 25,987 cases of COVID-19 infection as of Wednesday, with 22 deaths also reported.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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