*Staff members of the Congolese Ministry of Health perform a COVID-19 test at a private residence in Goma, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on March 31, 2020. Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP
As Nigeria and other African countries battle to combat the increasing cases of the dreaded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo reports that cases of the disease in a military prison in Kinshasa has doubled to nearly 100 in two days. The latest update is as at Monday May 4, 2020.
The said, “Fifty-six (additional) people in Ndolo military prison were confirmed with COVID-19” on Saturday, the government’s latest epidemiological bulletin said. Forty-three cases had been diagnosed at the prison on Thursday and Friday. The jail, located in the north of the DRC’s capital, was built during Belgian colonial rule for 500 inmates but today houses between 1,900 and 2,000, according to various sources.
“The overcrowded and insalubrious prisons in the DRC present a serious risk” for COVID-19 spread, Human Rights Watch warned on April 17. But, the Congolese authorities say that there is no case yet at Makala, the largest prison in Kinshasa, which houses at least 8,400 detainees. As part of slowing down the spread of the disease, most countries adopted the option of releasing inmates with minimal sentences, and or those who have nearly finished their term.
The first case of the coronavirus infection in the central African country was registered on March 10. Since then, 682 cases have been confirmed, with 34 deaths, according to the bulletin published on Monday by a health ministry team tackling the pandemic. Seven of the DRC’s 26 provinces have recorded cases of COVID-19, but the vast majority of infections (652) have occurred in Kinshasa, a city of 12 million people that also accounts for all the fatalities.