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2020-02-21 12:03:33

Hundreds of prisoners in several Chinese provinces have tested positive for COVID-19, adding to the number of confirmed cases in the country.

As of Friday, a total of 505 inmates from prisons in three different provinces across China — including Hubei, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — have been diagnosed with the disease, authorities said.

In the eastern Shandong province, 200 inmates and seven guards at Rencheng Prison were found to be infected with the virus, the provincial government said Friday. Another 34 prisoners at Shilifeng Prison in the eastern Zhejiang province were also discovered to be infected, according to local officials.

Meanwhile, prisons in Hubei have also reported a total of 271 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 230 of them found at a women’s prison in the provincial capital of Wuhan and 41 reported in the city of Jingmen.

The warden of the women’s prison in Wuhan, as well as a guard at Jingmen, have been dismissed, according to government officials.

Wu Lei, the prison administration director in Shandong, said at a press conference Friday that a guard diagnosed with COVID-19 on Feb. 13 had spread the virus to inmates and other guards. He apologized for the “inadequate implementation of prevention and control measures” and added that the inmates from the prison had been transferred to hotels for quarantine.

The inmates who tested positive are being treated, and epidemiologists are working to trace the source of the infections, according to Shandong authorities. The provincial government also said that eight officials, including the prison warden, had been dismissed.

In Zhejiang, the inmates at Shilifeng were said to be infected by a prison guard with a history of travel to Wuhan, according to the provincial government. The guard, surnamed Luo, had left for a five-day family visit on Jan. 14 and had resumed working in the prison after returning, without disclosing his travel history.

The warden of the Zhejiang prison was also dismissed Friday. None of the inmates from the three provinces are in serious condition, and no deaths have resulted, China’s prison bureau said Friday.

Over 2,200 people in China have died from the COVID-19 epidemic, mostly in Hubei. The virus has also infected more than 77,000 people worldwide, as more countries are starting to see outbreak clusters.

In South Korea, 39 new infections in the city of Daegu were said to be linked to a religious sect, raising fears of a community outbreak. Meanwhile, over 20 people linked to a church in Singapore were also found to be infected with the virus.

With 621 confirmed cases, the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan since Feb. 3 has the most coronavirus patients of any place outside the Chinese mainland.

In China, 83% of the cluster cases have occurred in families, while other mass infections have occurred in hospitals, schools, shopping malls, and factories, the National Health Commission revealed after analyzing over 1,000 such cases. Earlier this month, more than 80 patients and medical workers at the Wuhan Mental Health Center were also diagnosed with COVID-19.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: IC)