Prisons: Coronavirus

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 4th May 2020.

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Photo of James Davies James Davies Conservative, Vale of Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans the Government has to (a) conduct covid-19 testing among prison staff and prisoners and to (b) reduce transfer of staff and prisoners between sites during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

On 24 April, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced the rollout of COVID-19 testing for all essential workers and symptomatic members of their household, including prison and probation staff in England. To date, we have referred more than 2,000 staff working for HM Prison and Probation Service for testing.

As healthcare is devolved in Wales, testing for prison and probation staff, and symptomatic members of their household, is being delivered through local resilience forum arrangements and local health boards.

Tests will be conducted on symptomatic prisoners on site and are carried out by qualified healthcare practitioners. Those who are well enough to be safely managed by prison healthcare teams will remain in prisons, and those requiring hospital care will be transferred to the appropriate medical facility.

The testing capacity and availability can vary between establishments, depending on local circumstances at the time. This means that the total number of potential cases at any establishment can include clinically diagnosed but untested cases, as well as those who have a confirmed COVID-19 positive result. Outbreak control teams monitor and take account of these matters in their advice on the management of prison cases.

Routine transfers of both staff and prisoners are being minimised to reduce opportunities for transmission of COVID-19 between prisons and prevent the introduction of infection into prisons where there is no outbreak.

Some controlled prisoner movements between establishments have been authorised in order to utilise the headroom created by population control measures. All such moves require COVID-19 Gold Command authorisation and only take place once the receiving prison has a Reverse Cohorting Unit established to receive incoming prisoners.

Staff detached duty has been minimised and used only in exceptional circumstances.

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