'Extraordinary' outbreak of Covid in Norwich prison

Norwich Prison. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Prison. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

The full extent of the coronavirus outbreak at Norwich Prison has been laid bare, with hundreds of inmates and staff infected over the last three months.

Information supplied to this paper shows more than a quarter of inmates and around 70 staff at HMP Norwich have had the virus since November.

Former county council leader, George Nobbs, confirmed the extent of the outbreak, based on the information given to him by Dr Louise Smith, director of public health. 

Mr Nobbs previously called for clarity over the prison outbreak late last year.

Around 200 inmates are known to have had the virus since November at a prison of around 750 people. 
Many of these inmates will now have recovered.

In the past 14 days around 27 cases have been identified at the prison, Mr Nobbs said, but it is unclear if that is inmates, staff or both.

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

Mr Nobbs described the situation at the prison as extraordinary - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Mr Nobbs described the situation as "extraordinary" and said it would have been better for the figures to have been released earlier.

"It just seems like a huge jump now," he said. "If that information had been released gradually it would have been better.

"It doesn't pay to withhold information of this sort - full disclosure is the best policy."

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However, Mr Nobbs stressed that the public should not worry about the situation.

"I am sure there is no need for the public to think this will affect them," he said.

"I am sure they are doing the right things to keep people safe.

"People need to know the facts in these cases - it's vitally important the public knows what is going on - otherwise you just get speculation.

"If you have the facts you can make a decision."

Local data shows the area that the prison is in has one of the highest rates of infection in the county, with 107 cases per 100,000 people between January 3 – 9.  

Norwich as a whole has a rate of 615 cases per 100,000 people.  

A Prison Service spokesman would not confirm the extent of the outbreak at the prison but said measures were in place to limit the spread.

He added: “Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons.

“We took precautionary measures at Norwich, in line with public health guidance, following a number of positive cases and continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Face-to-face prison visits have been suspended for the duration of the outbreak, replaced by video calls. 

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