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COVID-19 control measures help ensure safe Christmas at prison

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Measures to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 at the prison have proved a success, with prisoners on all wings now able to enjoy a more normal regime over the Christmas period.

The pre-determined ‘black’ regime had been in place on two wings for several weeks to prevent transmission of the virus, protect prisoners and staff and ensure the continued safe operation of the facility. During that period prisoners spent more time in their cells and visiting was suspended.

However, a return to the standard ‘red’ regime has been agreed by prison authorities and the Infection Prevention and Control team, allowing offenders a change of scene, the opportunity to exercise outside [their cells], associate with others and take part in activities.

Minister for Justice and Home Affairs Jane Poole Wilson MHK said:

‘The isolation of two wings for a period of several weeks to help manage an outbreak of Covid Cases was unfortunately necessary. We had to do everything we could to prevent the virus spreading among a prison population of well over 100 prisoners and staff in a closed community. Those measures have proved effective.

She added:

‘We recognise that as a society we must learn to live with COVID and so the Governor has created pathways which more closely mirror the community in order that an entire wing isn’t impacted if one person tests positive. There will be daily lateral flow tests and mask wearing will be maintained throughout the entire prison for all staff, who will remain alert for prisoners who exhibit symptoms of COVID 19. The resumption of visiting will be discussed in the New Year after the all-clear is given by our Infection Prevention and Control team.’  

The Prison Governor thanked staff, prisoners and their families for supporting this regime to ensure that the prison is kept safe and particularly that those who are vulnerable are protected.

The prison healthcare team will continue to promote the benefits of getting vaccinated. Currently, 85% of the prison population have been vaccinated and delivery of second doses and boosters is due to be completed by the beginning of February. 

A relaxed regime will be operating on Christmas Day during which prisoners can participate in competitions and quizzes, have a traditional Christmas lunch, and they will be able to make video calls, or telephone calls, to their families.