‘Complete absence of masks’ could cause virus outbreak in our prisons, MP says
PUBLISHED: 13:05 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:57 28 April 2020
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Fears of a coronavirus outbreak in the region’s prisons have been raised by an MP who says social distancing guidelines are not being followed.
In prisons in Norfolk and Suffolk, “social distancing guidelines are not being adhered to and there is a limited amount of PPE, with a notable absence of face masks,” according to Waveney MP Peter Aldous.
The MP raised the issue in parliament alongside a number of MPs across the house on Monday, April 27.
His concerns were flagged shortly before Public Health England (PHE) announced that up to six times as many more prisoners may have been infected with coronavirus than the published figure.
While there are currently 304 confirmed infections in jails across England and Wales, PHE says it has found 1,783 “possible/probable” cases of coronavirus.
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Mr Aldous asked the secretary of state for justice, Robert Buckland, to assure “that he will work with prison officers and their representatives to address” the lack of PPE and social distancing which prison officers in the region have raised to him.
He added: “Prisons did not have a regard for masks when social distancing couldn’t be complied with - there was a complete absence of masks.
“Prisons have been behind the curve as far as social distancing guidelines go, which has concerned officers and inmates and given them a lot of worry.”
PHE’s report into coronavirus in prisons claims there have not yet been any “explosive outbreaks” in UK jails, though threat levels are “significant”.
Mr Aldous said: “The other issue which you get in our region, such as at Hollesley Bay which is a low security prison [in Suffolk], is that prison transfers - with prisoners moved from one prison to another - are still taking place.
“I was advised last week the guidelines for transferring and then isolating prisoners at new prisons were not being complied with, though over the weekend those concerns were addressed.”
The secretary of state for justice Robert Buckland said: “Prisoners are spending more of their time in their cells, to support social distancing. When they are allowed out of their cells [...] it is on a rota basis, in small, manageable groups”.
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