Jail lockdown in Portlaoise to stem Covid-19 outbreak as mass testing reveals cases in double digits

Up 1,000 prisoners and staff to be tested in a new round at Midlands Prison

coronavirus covid-19

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

A restricted regime is in force at Ireland's biggest jail in Portlaoise in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19 following confirmation that 10 prisoners have tested positive for the virus at the Midlands Prison.

The news was confirmed in a statement issued on Saturday evening February 20 following the completion of mass testing. 

"The Irish Prison Service can confirm that following the completion of first-round mass testing in the Midlands Prison, 10 positive cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed amongst the prisoner population.

"Following the confirmation of positive prisoner cases the Irish Prison Service and Midland Prison management have implemented a comprehensive contingency plan to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to the wider prison population.

"This major logistical operation includes arrangements for the second round of mass testing this week for all prisoners and staff in the Midlands and the introduction of a restricted regime across the prison.

"The Irish Prison Service is continuing to work closely with HSE/Public Health and arrangements are being made with the HSE for the re-testing of all prisoners and staff, in order to provide an assured response to the current outbreak in Midlands Prison. This will support a return to a more normal prison regime as soon as possible," said the statement.

Confirmation of further cases follows the emergence of three cases in the prison population on Wednesday, February 17. On February 12 the IPS confirmed that some staff had tested positive at the jail.

There were 824 inmates at the Laois jail on Friday, February 19 according to IPS statistics. When staff are included up to 1,000 people will have to be tested.

The IPS include information for families of prisoners in its statement. It says the Outbreak Control Team (OCT) continues to engage with prison management to oversee appropriate actions to mitigate against further possible spread of the virus within the prison.

"The Irish Prison Service is aware that family members are concerned for their loves one’s safety and wellbeing while in custody.  We want to assure you that our prison staff and healthcare team are doing everything they can to protect the people in their custody. Prison staff will only contact the next of kin where a prisoner has tested positive for Covid-19," said the statment.

Further information for families and friends is available here.

It represents the biggest single outbreak in the Irish Prison system since last February when the pandemic struck. There were five cases among the prison population at the Midlands during the second wave when five prisoners tested positive.

The Irish Prison Service has been internationally recognised for its management of the virus.

Latest figures from NPHET show the incidence of Covid-19 rising in Laois.  READ MORE HERE.

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