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29 May 2022

Covid-19 battle in Laois and other jails forces Irish Prison Service's hand on visits

Nearly 50 prisoners have Covid-19 in Portlaoise with more test results due

Outbreak in two divisons at Midlands Prison in Portlaoise

More than 400 prisoners have contracted Covid-19 at jails in Portlaoise and elsewhere in Ireland according to the Irish Prison Services which has had to suspend family visits to jail as outbreaks continue to be battled in Laois and other parts of Ireland.

In its latest update the service said the pressure continues to present challenges though there has been some progress.

"The total number of prisoners that have tested positive for Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic is 413. Given the current level of prevalence of the virus in the community the Irish Prison Service now faces an unprecedented challenge in continuing to keep prisoners safe from infection.

"The Prison Service has managed 12 Covid-19 Outbreaks within a prison setting since November 2021, of which, 9 have been successfully stood down," said the statement.

The IPS said it is managing three active outbreaks of Covid-19 in Cloverhill, Midlands and Limerick Prisons. It confirmed that staff and prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19.

Due to the impact, the IPS confirmed on January 10 has had to stop visits.

"The Irish Prison Service is aware of the importance of visits to prisoners and their families however, due to the widespread community transmission of Covid-19 all physical (family) visits to prisons will be suspended for a period of 14 days from Monday 10th January.

"All prisoners will continue to have access to video visits and will be entitled to receive 1 family video visit per week. Where there is an active outbreak of Covid-19, a restricted regime is implemented until mass testing is complete. Cloverhill, Midlands and Limerick Outbreak Control Teams and prison management have implemented additional infection control measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to the wider prison population," it said.

The IPS said it would continue to work closely with HSE's Pubic Health teams to manage of the current outbreaks including testing arrangements for staff and prisoners if required. At all points, it said Outbreak Control Teams (OCT) are guided by advice from local Public Health clinicians and meetings with Public Health are convened at regular intervals throughout the course of each outbreak.

A statement said a total of (16) prisoners from G Division in Midlands Prison in Portlaoise have tested positive for Covid-19. It said a second round of testing was completed and no further positive prisoners were detected and it was agreed that this Outbreak could be stood down.

However, the Midlands Outbreak Control Team has recently identified a positive prisoner on the B Division. The Outbreak Control Team has been reconvened and the B Division is operating on a restricted regime until mass testing is complete.

The IPS said a total of 27 prisoners from C Division in Portlaoise Prison tested positive for Covid-19. A second round of testing was completed and no further positive prisoners were detected. As a result Public Health and the Outbreak Control Team agreed to stand down the Outbreak in Portlaoise Prison. The IPS said the Senior Management Team will continue to implement strict infection control measures and restore the C Division to a normal prison regime.

Two prisoners from C Division and the Female Unit in Limerick Prison have tested positive for Covid-19. An Outbreak Control Team has been established, the C Division and the Female Unit is operating on a restricted regime until mass testing of staff and prisoners is complete.

One prisoner from B Division in Cloverhill Prison has tested positive for Covid-19. An Outbreak Control Team has been established, the B Division is operating on a restricted regime until mass testing is complete.

A total of 41 prisoners from C & D Division in Mountjoy Prison tested positive for Covid-19. Second round of testing was completed and Public Health and the Outbreak Control Team are in agreement to stand down the Outbreak in Mountjoy Prison. The Senior Management Team will continue to implement strict infection control measures and restore the C & D Division to a normal prison regime.

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