Further measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus at the prison have been put in place after two officers tested positive for Covid-19. Both individuals are self-isolating with their households and the contact tracing team is in touch with members of staff who had been their close contacts.
The Prison Governor has taken the decision to implement additional safety controls to protect officers and offenders, reduce the risk of the spread of infection and maintain critical services. The pre-determined ‘black’ regime means that for the time being, offenders will spend more time in their cells and free association will be reduced.
Minister for Justice and Home Affairs Graham Cregeen MHK said: ‘We are responding swiftly and firmly to the current circumstances – the escalation plan introduced by the Governor was designed for this situation. I am content that the advanced control measures and infection prevention regime put in place will reduce the risk to officers and prisoners. Operationally there will be little impact as most of the officers involved are having time off after their shift or are now taking planned leave – but the Governor will continue to monitor staff attendance.’
He added: ‘It is regrettable that despite everyone’s best efforts to maintain strong defences against the virus, two positive cases have surfaced which appear to be linked to household transmission outside the prison. We are doing everything we can to prevent any further transmission.’
The established infection control regime in the prison developed with DHSC and Public Health was in place prior to the current lockdown, and visits have been made throughout the pandemic to assess operating procedures. Prison wings have been operating as separate ‘bubbles’ with officers and prisoners remaining in their separate units to reduce contacts. The current suspension of non-essential visits remains in place.
Alternative provision has been put in place to ensure prisoners can continue to access confidential legal advice, and the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has been informed. Prisoners remain able to raise concerns with the IMB on a confidential basis and its operation is not affected by these measures.