Hundreds of prisoners and staff revealed to have had coronavirus
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Phil Morley/Archant
New data has shown that hundreds of prisoners and prison staff in Suffolk have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice, broke down cases each month from March 2020 to January 2021.
The data showed that all three of Suffolk's prisons; Highpoint, Hollesley Bay and Warren Hill had reported significant outbreaks of the coronavirus in recent months.
None of the prisons had significant outbreaks of the virus until November last year when 18 prisoners contracted it at HMP Highpoint.
This was followed in January with larger outbreaks at all three prisons.
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The biggest of all these outbreaks was at HMP Hollesley Bay where over 100 prisoners contracted the virus.
The data also showed how many of the prison's staff had contracted the virus over the same time period; this included staff both directly and non-directly employed by the prison .
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In most cases, the rise and fall of cases amongst staff was in sync with that of prisoners with the majority of cases falling in January 2021.
Again, the largest number of staff infections was at Hollesley Bay which recorded 42 in January alone.
Jackie Marshall, POA representative for the eastern region, said; “I think Hollesley Bay was quite high but then in the open estate it’s very difficult because your staffing numbers are lower.
“It’s very difficult to encourage the two-metre distance.”
Mrs Marshall said that the union still wanted to see prison officers given priority when it came to vaccinations.
“We are not on any priority list whatsoever,” said Mrs Marshall.
“We are the danger to prisoners because they are not going anywhere. We are the ones that are coming in and out.”
The Ministry of Justice confirmed that the outbreak at HMP Hollesley Bay has since been dealt with and there are currently no cases at the prison.
There are a handful of cases at HMP Warren Hill and HMP Highpoint.
It also said it was routinely testing all staff and new prisoners as well as those being transferred. It said that work was also being done to vaccinate those who were deemed a priority.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “Mass testing, shielding and reduced contact across the country’s prisons mean infections are significantly lower than predicted at the start of the pandemic and have continued to fall for the last few weeks."