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First Covid 19 case in Irish prison

Virus diagnosed in 23-year-old homeless woman isolating

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Testing: Dochas centre

Testing: Dochas centre

Testing: Dochas centre

A woman has become the first inmate in the Irish prison system to be diagnosed with Covid 19.

The 23-year-old, who is a remand prisoner at the Dochas Centre, received a positive diagnosis on Friday.

The homeless woman had been remanded in custody by a district court judge in relation to an offence of threatening and abusive behaviour.

The woman was asymptomatic but like all new prisoners was placed into mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival and was subsequently diagnosed after routine testing of all new inmates.

She had been in the centre for 10 days by the time she was diagnosed.

The Irish Prison Service has been seen as one of the best models internationally of how to prevent the virus spreading in prisons. Until this week not one single prisoner test positive since the first cases were confirmed in Ireland in February.

A number of staff members have tested positive since the outbreak began but that did not lead to the infection being brought into the prisons.

The IPS introduced an infection control team managed by Emmett Conroy after a number of instances of TB in prisons back in 2017.

As a result staff and prisoners were already trained in hygiene practises and coughing etiquette and the team started making preparations for Covid as far back as January.

They began to source personal protective equipment before the pandemic and trained staff how to use it properly and prisoners were kept up to date with health advice.

Measures such as stopping visits from outside and testing anyone coming into the prisons were also put in place.

The IPS clinical director John Devlin previously explained how the contact tracing system operate within the service was the key to its success.

"What it involves is interviewing cases at the earliest opportunity, so if anybody becomes symptomatic, on that very same day, we start contact tracing," he said. "If anyone is a potential case, they are isolated at the earliest opportunity to prevent any further spread of the infection and that applies not just to prisoners but also to staff."

There are currently 107 inmates in the Dochas centre and 3,700 in Irish jails.

Earlier this week visiting rules were relaxed so that all prisoners can have one family visit every two weeks, which can be attended by one adult and one child.