The Deputy will be aware that the Irish Prison Service has put in place an extensive range of measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission within prisons, detect early any possible infection in a prisoner or staff member and prevent the spread of infection should there be a confirmed case.
I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that as of 11 January, 2021 there have been 43 positive cases of Covid-19 identified amongst the prisoner population since March 2020, with the first case in September 2020. Of the 43 confirmed prisoner cases 23 were community acquired infections and 20 were prison based.
To date, none of the cases have required hospital treatment and the Irish Prison Service inform me that there are procedures in place for this eventuality should it become necessary.
The measures which have been introduced are guided by the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team and consistent with the prison specific guidance for the management of Covid-19 issued by the World Health Organisation and guidance of the Council of Europe.
The Deputy may wish to note that there is a Primary Healthcare service available at each prison consisting of doctors and nurses who are responsible for the management of healthcare issues including the treatment of Covid-19. To date, all positive Covid-19 cases in the prisoner population have been managed in the relevant prison and there has been no requirement to transfer any prisoner to hospital. If however the prison healthcare service consider that a prisoner requires hospital treatment they would refer the prisoner to the relevant hospital, alerting in advance that they are sending a Covid-19 patient. The prisoner in question would be transferred to the hospital via an ambulance.
I wish to assure the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service continues to manage the risks and challenges faced in a prison context during the Covid-19 pandemic in line with public health guidelines. In doing so, it maintains a close working relationship with my Department, relevant criminal justice authorities, the National Public Health Emergency Team and the HSE.