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Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 21st May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bethell on 4 May (HL3394), whether any prisoners have yet been tested for COVID-19; when they expect testing will begin in a systematic way; what plans they have to prioritise the most overcrowded prisons; and how many COVID-19 (1) cases, and (2) deaths, have been reported among (1) prison staff, and (2) prisoners.

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

COVID-19 testing is ongoing in prisons and is being conducted by internal or external healthcare practitioners on some symptomatic prisoners on site. The testing capacity is dependent on local commissioning services, therefore the numbers of those tested varies by establishment. However, prisoners that require hospital care are being transferred to hospital and may also be tested there. We are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to consider next steps for testing in prisons.

As of 17:00 on Sunday 17 May, 411 prisoners and 540 prison staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. This is an accumulative total and does not represent the number of live cases. Some of those that previously tested positive will have now made a full recovery.

Sadly, as of Friday 15 May, 21 prisoners and 8 members of prison staff have died. These figures represent cases where it was known that the individual had tested positive for the virus. It is a matter for coroners to determine a cause of death.

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is containing the spread of COVID-19 within jails using an approach known as ‘compartmentalisation’. Through this approach, staff have isolated those with symptoms, and many prisons have been able to shield the vulnerable and quarantine new arrivals. Modelling by HMPPS and Public Health England indicates that jails are successfully limiting deaths and the transmission of the virus within the estate.

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