To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment has he made of the vulnerability of the prison population to covid-19; and what steps he is taking to reduce the risk of the spread of that virus in that population.
13 March 2020
HMPPS is working to prevent the spread of COVID-19, based on the very latest scientific and medical advice. We are working closely with Public Health England, the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care to manage the challenges we face.
The safety and wellbeing of staff, prisoners and visitors is paramount and at the heart of our approach.
Prisons have existing, well-developed policies and procedures in place to manage outbreaks of infectious diseases. This means prisons are well prepared to take immediate action whenever cases or suspected cases are identified.
We are ensuring that where necessary, personal protective equipment is available to staff. In line with broader clinical advice, HMPPS has introduced a procedure for the protective isolation of individuals in prison custody when it is considered that they may be potentially infected with the virus. In Wales, we are working with prison health teams from local health boards to ensure we have a joint approach to any incidents.
Basic hygiene is a key part of tackling the virus and good practice is being promoted on posters throughout the estate. Handwashing facilities are available to all prisoners – not just in cells but other shared areas such as education blocks and kitchens. Staff and visitors also have access to handwashing facilities and we have worked closely with suppliers to ensure adequate supply of soap and cleaning materials.
We have procedures agreed with our public health colleagues for protecting staff in the workplace but, like any member of the community, some prison staff may need to self-isolate in line with public health advice, or may become infected. We are taking steps to boost staff availability and so enable us to look after prisoners properly and minimise the impacts on prison regimes of staff absences.