Extent of Norwich Prison Covid outbreak revealed

HMP Norwich, where Matthew Gray was found hanged. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Prison. - Credit: Steve Adams

The full extent of a coronavirus outbreak that hit Norwich Prison has been revealed.

Throughout December, the prison on Knox Road was subject to a high number of Covid-19 cases among inmates, but the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had refused to give exact details.

However, a Freedom of Information Request submitted to the MoJ has now revealed just how any prisoners tested positive for the virus and when the outbreak hit its peak.

Since the beginning of the pandemic up to January 4, 195 inmates at the prison have tested positive for the virus, with an outbreak forcing the site into a mass testing regime in December.

At the outbreak's peak, more than 100 prisoners were suffering from Covid-19, with 103 positive cases identified in the prison on Sunday, December 10.

For the seven days ending December 4, 80 positive tests were confirmed.  The two subsequent weeks saw rates slow, but the week ending Christmas Day saw 82 positive tests confirmed.

A spokesman for the MoJ said: "The increase in numbers in early and late December is likely to be the result of public health authorities advising HMP Norwich to undertake mass testing on prisoners, regardless of whether they displayed symptoms of the virus.

"We have robust plans in place to keep prisoners, staff and the public safe, based on the latest public health advice. This means prisons and probation services are well prepared to take immediate action whenever cases or suspected cases are identified."

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During the month of December, the prison's outbreak saw localised infection rates soar in the Heartsease area, which was largely attributed to the cases at HMP Norwich.

At the time, this newspaper called on the MoJ to provide clarity over the case numbers, but it has not officially provided them until now.

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

George Nobbs, county councillor for the Crome ward. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

George Nobbs, county councillor for the Crome ward, in which the prison stands, said: "I see no reason why the statistics should not have been released at the time.

"You can not suppress a virus by supressing facts about it and I am delighted for my constituents that the MoJ has finally given us the facts.

"It is a pity though that it has taken a Freedom of Information request to get to the truth."

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