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Prisons: Coronavirus

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 110764, tabled on 3 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to support prisons in the event of a covid-19 outbreak among staff.

Answered on

9 November 2020

We have well-developed policies and procedures in place to manage outbreaks and infectious diseases, including COVID-19. This means prisons are well prepared to take immediate action whenever cases or suspected cases are identified. Our measures so far have included restricting regimes, minimising inter-prison transfers and compartmentalising our prisons into different units to isolate the sick, shield the vulnerable and quarantine new arrivals.

We are, however, prepared for continued staffing challenges and are driving forward with recruitment campaigns and using many of the tried and tested staffing interventions that worked effectively before, which will allow us to supply establishments with staff at short notice. These measures include enabling operationally qualified staff in HQ and non-operational roles to return to prisons and inviting retired and resigned former staff to return to work on temporary contracts.

There is currently adequate stock and forward supply of all PPE items in accordance with public health advice. We are making preparations and keeping demand for PPE under regular review as we move through each phase of managing the outbreak. We have issued a face mask strategy for staff which, in line with public health advice, sets out when face masks must be worn in HMPPS settings.

We have also begun introducing a testing regime for staff and prisoners across all prisons in England and Wales to help identify and isolate cases early and control the spread of coronavirus. Routine staff testing will also be rolled out from November for both directly employed and non-directly employed staff who work with prisoners on a weekly basis. Reception and transfer testing for prisoners is now in place in seven prisons in England and two in Wales. Further sites are expected to begin testing over the coming weeks with a focus on reception prisons first.

All of these measures collectively contribute to preventing the spread of coronavirus and protect staff, residents and the public and it is important to continue to follow all of the guidelines in place.

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