To stem the spread of the coronavirus, Tanzanian authorities on Monday launched rapid testing for COVID-19 to all new inmates at prisons, while the East African country last week reported 29 new deaths and 176 more infections.

The total number of cases hit 858, and officials are set to roll out vaccination campaigns to 10 regions.

Tanzania plans to inoculate 60% of its population, with the first phase of vaccination to be administered for front-line health workers, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions.

Abel Makubi, the permanent secretary of the Health Ministry, told Anadolu Agency Monday that they have deployed health officials to conduct the tests.

“We are aiming to protect inmates and other vulnerable groups deserving protection against this third wave of COVID-19,” he noted, saying the new initiative is part of new guidelines issued by the ministry to deter the spread of the deadly virus.

Despite many attempts to curb the outbreak, prison facilities in Tanzania are mostly overcrowded, making it extremely hard for authorities to prevent the virus’s spread.

The country’s Home Affairs Ministry statistics show there were 33,473 inmates in March, with 16,735 of them being prisoners and 16,738 remanded, surpassing the official prison capacity by 3,571 people.

Makubi said that as part of the initiative, they have instructed police and prison officials to set up hand washing facilities with running water and soap and to ensure that visitors also take required measures.

The government has also said it will speed up bail applications of qualified suspects to help tackle the outbreak situation at prisons.

People entering police stations and inmate rooms will from now on be required to wear masks and have their body temperature checked, Makubi added.

Visits to prisons should also be strictly monitored with all visitors required to wear facial masks and keep a distance while talking to their loved ones, he stressed.

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