The Irish Prison Service have recently experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in Cloverhill, Midlands and Mountjoy Prisons. The Midlands Prison Outbreak Control team was stood down on 19 November 2021 following the successful containment of the spread of the virus and the prison was returned to a more normal regime.
The Prison Service has a comprehensive contingency plan for the management of such outbreaks. Upon confirmation of an outbreak situation, an Outbreak Control Team is established to oversee the management of the outbreak. This Team is led by a Senior Manager, and comprises of prison management; Healthcare staff; National Infection Control; with representatives from the HR and Operations Directorates; and the Prison Officers Association.
The Team manage the outbreak in line with the Irish Prison Service National Covid-19 Contingency Plan. The Plan sets out the actions to be taken with regard to the restriction of the confirmed case(s), contact tracing and the restriction of all prisoner movements while testing, contact tracing and assessment of risk are taking place. It also sets out the arrangements to be made for the mass testing of all prisoners and staff.
In accordance with the Contingency Plan, where there is a positive Covid-19 case in the general prison population, all prisoner movement in the prison is restricted while testing, contact tracing and assessment of the risk of the spread of the infection continues. Prisoners involved in the provision of services within the prison such as kitchen and laundry continue to work with an enhanced level of PPE providing they are not a close contact of any confirmed case. Prisoners are provided with food and medication at their door and are permitted to leave their cell in a controlled manner to make telephone calls.
Once the results of first round testing of all prisoners and all staff are received, any prisoners with negative test results have a degree of regime restored. Prisoners that return a positive test result and their close contacts are managed in accordance with HSE guidance and isolation and quarantine protocols.
The Prison Service engage with Public Health of the Health Service Executive with regard to the arrangements for the mass testing of all staff, and the mass testing of prisoners is carried out by the Prison Healthcare teams. An extensive communications plan has been implemented to inform all key stakeholders of the actions being taken throughout the process.