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06 Dec 2021

Laois jail the Covid-19 hotspot of Irish prison network as more inmates test positive

Nearly 75% of all cases in Irish jails are located in the Midlands Prison

Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

Nearly three quarters of prisoners with Covid-19 in Irish prisons are behind bars in one of Portlaoise's jails according to new figures from the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

The latest update from the Services also reveals that more prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19 two weeks after the first cases were identified at the Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

The IPS said three outbreaks of Covid-19 currently being managed at Irish jails. It said there are 63 confirmed prisoner cases of Covid-19 in Cloverhill, Midlands and Mountjoy Prisons.

One prisoner has tested positive for Covid-19 in the Progression Unit, Mountjoy Prison while there are 16 case in in Cloverhill Prison.

However, the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise is the hotspot with 46 prisoners have been confirmed as positive. Despite the prison being in lockdown, five more cases tested positive on Wednesday. The outbreak began in the Laois jail on November 4 when two prisoners caught the virus.

Prisoners and staff in all divisions of the Midlands have been the subject to testing since as prison management and public health teams attempt to control the outbreak which is by far the worst since the start of the pandemic.

The IPS said Outbreak Control Teams (OCT) have been established in each of the location to agree and oversee the appropriate actions taken to mitigate against further possible spread of the disease within those prisons. 

A prisoner with an underlying condition in the custody of the Midlands Prison died during the current outbreak. While the IPS did not confirm the death, it is understood to be the first death of a prisoner in Ireland who had contracted the virus.

The IPS does not release numbers on prison officer infections but has confirmed that staff have tested positive in Portlaoise.

Recent figures revealed that 90% of prisoners in jails had been vaccinated. Vaccination rates for staff are not known.

There are 818 prisoners in the Midlands on November 17 which represents 93% occupancy. The jail is separate from the high-security prison which houses gangland criminals and paramilitaries.

The IPS says it has successfully managed the virus during the pandemic up to the current wave. It now says it is facing an 'unprecedented challenge'.

Laois has had one of the highest incidence rates of the virus through October and November in Ireland.

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