Staff, prisoners and volunteers have delivered an 'outstanding' response to the Covid-19 threat by keeping the virus out of jails in Portlaoise and other parts of Ireland, according to Laois Offaly TD and Minister Charlie Flanagan who also confirmed that work has started on the resumption of visits.
Speaking on the publication of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) annual report Minister Flanagan praised the work of all IPS staff and prisoners in keeping the virus out.
A statement from the Department of Justice said that to date, no prisoner has been infected with Covid-19. It said the IPS has been internationally recognised for its work in controlling the spread of the virus.
The Department said the IPS has now shared their experience with other countries through the submission of a paper to the World Health Organisation on its approach to the outbreak.
The Minister drew attention to the establishment an infection control policy in 2019 and pointed out the extent to which that work helped to handle the pandemic in jails.
"I want to publicly recognise the outstanding collective efforts that have been made to-date by Irish Prison Service staff, management, prisoners and Red Cross Volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic and thank them for the great work they have done to ensure our prisons continue to operate smoothly.
“The new infection prevention and control teams that were put in place in all prisons in 2019 have made a significant contribution to the successful handling of the virus and this work is something which should be particularly commended. It is vitally important these efforts should continue in order to maintain this remarkable safety record,” he said.
In line with the Government Roadmap, and with infection control in mind, the Minister also noted that the IPS has started to assess the ability of each prison to plan for the resumption of some family visits with appropriate safeguards in place.
“The IPS is committed to reintroducing physical visits as soon as it is safe to do so. While no date has been agreed, we all fully understand how important contact with family is. Arrangements that will be put in place have yet to be finalised, but our colleagues in the IPS will provide further information, and a date for the gradual recommencement of visits, to prisoners and their families in the coming weeks,” he said.
A statement said that the Minister also noted that the service will provide further updates on the measures that will be put in place to ensure that visiting a prison will be safe for prisoners, families, staff and other service providers, once those physical visits recommence.