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06 Dec 2021

Covid-19 in big Laois prison under control but community surge raises risk of more outbreaks

Covid-19 in big Laois prison under control but community surge means risk high

The biggest Covid-19 outbreak in the Irish prison system has been substantially brought under control, according to the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

Nearly 50 prisoners and an unspecified number of staff tested positive for the virus at the Midland Prison Portlaoise from November 4 to when the last last round of test results were revealed on November 19.

However, in its latest up date the IPS said the outbreak has been contained. 

A spokesperson told the Leinster Express that the Covid-19 Outbreak Control Team had been stood down on Friday, November 19 when the restricted regime or lockdown was also lifted by prison authorities.

The D Division of the jail, which has more than 800 inmates, remains in a containment phase due to the high number of positive tests among prisoners.

The spokesperson was confident that the outbreak is now under control but cautioned that while the virus remains high in the community every precaution must be made to reduce the risk of spread.

Most of cases at the Laois jail emerged from two mass testing rounds of up to 1,000 staff and prisoners in all divisions of the jail. The first two case were confirmed November 4.

The total number of confirmed prisoner cases of Covid-19 associated with outbreaks in Cloverhill, Midlands and Progression Unit (Mountjoy Prisons) had reached 71 by Friday, November 19.

A second round of testing had been carried out at Cloverhilll.

The IPS said prison visits are still be facilitated through the use of PPE in accordance with public health guidance. It is not believed prison visits have been a source of the latest outbreaks.

The spokesperson added that a prisoner could not attend a court hearing if a prison is in lockdown though video links to court are possible.

The IPS said it had successfully managed Covid-19 in Irish jails during the pandemic but added that the recent surge presented an 'unprecedented challenge'.

More than 90% of prisoners have been vaccinated. The inoculation rate is known for prison officers and other staff because they are vaccinated in the community.

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