New visiting restrictions to prisons in Portlaoise and elsewhere to prevent spread of Covid-19

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

More restrictions announced for prison visits to prevent spread of Covid-19

Irish Prison Service has announced further prison visit restrictions

More restrictions on visits to prisons in Portlaoise and other parts of the country prisons have been announced by the Irish Prison Service and the Government.

The restrictions are effective from yesterday Wednesday March 25, confirmed in a Government press statement this morning.

"To prevent the spread of coronavirus in a prison system, restrictions are being introduced. One adult per visit and each visitor will have to fill out a questionnaire. Visits will be time-limited to 15 minutes per visit, and visitors who appear to have flu-like symptoms may be refused entry," a spokesperson said in a live broadcast this morning.

The Irish Prison Service Service has detailed the restrictions in a statement on its website.

"Please be advised that in consideration of Public Health advises the following further restriction is to be introduced across the Prisons Estate from Wednesday 25 March, 2020  namely –  All visits to prisoners are to be restricted to one adult per visit.

"The other previously announced restrictions in relation to social distancing etc., remain in place.

"The measures listed below are necessary to reduce risk of the virus spreading to visitors, prisoners, prisoners’ families, staff and the wider community," they said.

Visits will be restricted to 1 visit per prisoner per week.
A limit of 1 adult per visit will apply.
No under 18s will be admitted.
Normal social distancing as advised by public health to apply including:no kissing
no handshaking
sneezing and coughing into elbow sleeve
all visits conducted at a distance of 1 meter
Visits will be time limited to 15 minutes per visit.
Prisons will operate to a daily maximum of 80% of their visiting capacity.
Visitors that appear to have flu like symptoms may be refused entry.

"We recognise that such a step may be challenging for families and friends, but we are also cognizant of our priority and responsibility to protect the well-being of those in our care and those in our employment within the prison. The virus can be spread through community transmission and, within the confines of a prison, there is obviously an increased risk of a rapid spread of infection."

The Irish Prison Service are appealing that members of the public carefully consider visiting the prison and refrain from visiting the Prisons unless absolutely necessary," they said.

They say no prisoner will be granted early or temporary release if it compromises public safety.

""The primary factor in the consideration of any prisoner for early release is public safety and no prisoner would be granted temporary release who poses an undue risk to public safety".

The measures are in line with the National Public Health Emergency Team (“NPHET”) and Government recommendations, and in the interests of the public health and the health and safety of prisoners in our care.

"These are pre-emptive measures to contain and decrease the likelihood of a potential spread of COVID-19 into the prison. The unique environment of a prison and the sheer numbers and diversity of people who pass through our prisons make vigilance around infection prevention and control absolutely necessary," the service said.

"The confirmation of a case of COVID-19 in a prison setting would present significant challenges for prison management in terms of controlling the spread of the virus amongst staff and prisoners, and the provision of appropriate medical treatment to affected persons.  Thank you for your understanding and cooperation." they said.