Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (411, 412, 413)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

411. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners that have been tested for Covid-19 by prison in tabular form. [5133/20]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

412. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners that have tested positive for Covid-19 in prisons here. [5134/20]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

413. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners that are currently in isolation due to displaying symptoms of Covid-19 by prison in tabular form. [5135/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 411 to 413, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will appreciate, an outbreak of Covid-19 in a prison setting would present significant challenges for prison management in terms of controlling the spread of the virus amongst staff and prisoners, the provision of appropriate medical treatment to affected persons and the maintenance of staffing levels.

Recognising these challenges, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service at an early stage established an Emergency Response Planning Team (“ERPT”) consisting of senior staff with skills and experience in areas including operational; healthcare; and infection control. The Emergency Response Planning Team was tasked with identifying and issuing instruction for any necessary actions with the aim of:

- Blocking the spread of Covid-19 into a prison setting;

- Early detection of any possible case of Covid-19 in a prisoner or staff member; and

- Prevention of the spread of Covid-19, should a case be confirmed.

A significant amount of work has been carried out by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to address this challenge, informed and guided by the advice received from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and consistent with the prison specific guidance for the management of Covid-19 issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 15 March 2020 and guidance of the Council of Europe.

A range of measures have been introduced across the prison estate in order to monitor, manage and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Irish prisons. Many of these measures are based on the public health principles of early detection of cases and physical distancing to reduce the risk of Covid-19. Measures introduced have included:

- The introduction of a basic health check, including taking of temperatures for all persons, including staff, entering prisons from 29 March;

- Suspension of physical family visits, replaced by the introduction of video visits;

- Quarantining for 14 days of all newly committed prisoners, in order to reduce the risk that a new committal who might be incubating the virus could spread Covid-19 to the general prison population;

- Isolation of suspected case or prisoner with symptoms to prevent the risk of transmission of infection;

- “cocooning” of vulnerable prisoners including all prisoners aged 70 years or more or those that are deemed medically vulnerable;

- comprehensive training for IPS staff and the provision of appropriate PPE across the prison estate;

- strong communication with staff and prisoners, including two prison newsletters published weekly and regular Covid-19 information leaflets for prisoners and newsletters for staff regarding actions taken; and

- establishment of a robust contract tracing model which has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as best practice.

Due to the extensive contingency measures introduced, the ongoing dedicated work of Irish Prison Service staff as well as the cooperation and understanding of the prisoners themselves, I understand that as of yesterday, 12 May 2020, there has no confirmed prisoner case of Covid-19 within the Irish prison system.

The number of prisoners that have been tested for Covid-19 as of 12 May, broken down by prison, is set in the following table which was conveyed to me by the Irish Prison Service.

Prison

Number of Prisoners Tested as of 12 May

Cloverhill

33

Wheatfield

5

Midlands

16

Mountjoy

6

Dóchas Centre

12

Limerick

1

Cork

17

Portlaoise

6

Shelton Abbey

0

Loughan House

0

Castlerea

2

Arbour Hill

1

The number of prisoners currently in isolation, as of 12 May, due to displaying of symptoms of Covid-19, broken down by prison, is set in the following table which was conveyed to me by the Irish Prison Service.

Prison

Prisoners in isolation as of 12 May

Cloverhill

12

Wheatfield

5

Midlands

0

Mountjoy

4

Dochas Centre

0

Limerick

2

Cork

2

Portlaoise

3

Shelton Abbey

0

Loughan House

0

Castlerea

0

Arbour Hill

0