Jail outbreak | 

15 cases of Covid-19 detected at Wheatfield Prison

Wheatfield Prison

Patrick O'Connell

A TOTAL of 10 staff and five inmates have now tested positive for Covid 19 at Wheatfield Prison, according to the results of the first round of mass testing at the facility.

Following confirmation last week of positive cases involving eight staff, the Irish Prison Service confirmed on Monday that following mass testing of all staff and prisoners in Wheatfield Prison, there have been additional positive Covid-19 staff cases detected.

The Irish Prison Service also confirmed that five prisoners have also tested positive for Covid-19.

In a statement the Irish Prison Service said in conjunction with Wheatfield Prison management, it has implemented a comprehensive contingency plan to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to the wider prison population.

A landing at Wheatfield Prison. Photo: Steve Humphreys

“The Irish Prison Service is continuing to work closely with HSE/Public Health and arrangements are being made with the HSE for the re-testing of all prisoners and staff, later this week, in order to provide an assured response to the current outbreak in Wheatfield Prison.

“This will support a return to a more normal prison regime as soon as possible.

“The Irish Prison Service continues to work closely with Public Health, HSE and contact tracing is still ongoing.”

A second round of testing will be undertaken at the facility on Saturday next.

A questions and answers sheet for relatives of inmates has also been prepared by the IPS and can be found below.

How bad is this outbreak, are many prisoners affected?

As of today, Monday 04th January, we(the IPS) can confirm five prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19 in Wheatfield Prison.

How will I know if my loved one has Covid-19?

If you have a family member who has been confirmed as positive for Covid-19, and you are registered as their next of kin, you will have been contacted. Our staff will contact families if any cases arise. There is no need to ring the prison to find out if someone has Covid-19, we will contact you.

Are there cases of Covid-19 all over the prison?

There are five prisoners who have tested positive for Covid 19 in Wheatfield Prison.

Will prisoners be tested for the virus?

As a precaution, the Irish Prison Service are in agreement with the Public Health and the HSE that all prisoners and staff will be tested and retested on day 7 in order to provide an assured response to the current situation in Wheatfield Prison. This second stage of testing will support a more comphrensive result and assist in a more normal return to prison regimes.

Will I still be able to have my video visit and phone calls?

Yes, due to the restriction we have to make some changes to the prison regime but we realise how important family contact is. Phone & Video calls will continue as normal once all test results are received.

Will prisoners still be able to access services such as drug counsellors or psychology?

Normally yes, where prisoners have access to a phone in their cell they will engage with the different services as normal. Prisoners who do not have access to a cell phone will need to wait until all test results have returned before the regime can return to normal.

Can prisoners still go to school or work and training?

Similar to communities, the schools are currently closed for the Christmas holidays. Prisoners involved in essential work and training activities will still be able to participate with other prisoners in their unit. We hope to return to a more normal regime after everyone has been tested for the second time.

Will they be restricted to their rooms all day with nothing to do?

We will be allowing people out their rooms for exercise and showering and to access phone & video calls once all the test results are received. We have also provided Netflix in their cell and this will provide some entertainment in the evening.

What happens if they fall ill from Covid-19 and need to see a doctor or nurse?

As you probably know, we have an excellent healthcare team on site in Wheatfield Prison and if anyone needs medical support our staff will be available. We will be monitoring anyone who tested positive regularly and we assure you we will provide them with excellent care if they are unwell.

Do you have enough PPE and hand sanitizer to allow people to keep safe?

We have been preparing for Covid-19 since January 2020 and the Prison Service has purchased large stocks of PPE and hand sanitizer.

Where can I get more information?

We will continue to publish updates on Wheatfield Prison situation on our website www.irishprisons.ie and on our twitter page @irishprisons

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