Over 77 inmates and 26 police personnel at Mumbai's Arthur Road jail have been tested positive for COVID-19, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Thursday.

According to media reports, the new cases of coronavirus were reported a day after a 45-year-old inmate tested positive for COVID-19. As soon as his test came out, swab samples of 150 inmates from the prison were taken at the JJ hospital to check their health status.

"More swabs are being currently taken from Arthur Road prison," HT quoted an IPS officer who gave the information on the condition of remain anonymous.

This is the first time cases of coronavirus have been reported from any jail in Maharashtra.

Representational ImageYouTube (Left), Pixabay (Right)

Overcrowded Jail

The overcrowded Arthur Road jail has nearly 2,700 inmates lodged against the capacity of only 800.

Anil Deshmukh

Earlier the state government had ordered that eight prisons including Arthur Road jail will not admit any new person, and those inside the jail, including jail staff, will not be allowed to leave the prison during the lockdown.

Only sanitization workers from BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) or staff for essential services like cooking were allowed to go inside the jail.

However, despite strict lockdown measures 72 inmates at the jail were found to be positive for the coronavirus.

How the virus reached inside the jail?

The state home minister said that the prisoners contracted the virus after coming in contact with an infected cook inside the prison.

Arthur road jail
Arthur Road Jail. (File photo)Reuters

"These prisoners will be quarantined with the help of Mumbai'civic body," NDT quoted Mr. Deshmukh.

Govt to release prisoners on parole

The minister also said that the state government has decided to release on parole around 5000 prisoners who have been sentenced to less than seven years in jail. The move is intended to decongest the prison during the pandemic and curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Arthur Road jail has been under complete lockdown since April 9. It is also very close to Kasturba Hospital which is the city's main facility for Covid-19 infection treatment.