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Prisons see spate of Covid cases

Law Enforcement 28 Jan, 2022 Follow News

Prisons see spate of Covid cases

Thirty-one prisoners (one woman and 30 men) and 16 prison staff members currently have Covid-19, with only 60% of prisoners currently fully vaccinated with at least two doses of the vaccine. The numbers of staff who have been vaccinated are far higher, at 91.42%. Only one prisoner has had to be admitted to hospital as a result.

Official said that throughout the pandemic, Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service (HMCIPS) had made it a priority to safeguard people in custody and its management and staff continued to work tirelessly with the support of health care practitioners to reduce the impact of Covid-19 while balancing the management, safety, and security of the community.

HMCIPS Acting Director Daniel Greaves said:

"As we have seen a surge in Covid-19 positive cases in the community, it was inevitable that at some point, HMCIPS would also be impacted,” he stated. “While there are a number of challenges with managing any communicable disease within an establishment such as a prison, our response has had to be fluid and evolving to match the situation. Over the last two years, we have accordingly implemented a number of measures to properly manage and safeguard our prisoners and staff.”

Prisoners participate in mass testing daily to detect any positive cases, and a series of mitigation measures are in place to manage the risk of transmission, to enable early identification of positive cases, and allow people who test positive to receive the best possible treatment, he advised.

Those who test positive are moved to an isolation wing where they have access to regular checks and care, as necessary, from the nurse(s) on-staff. The current isolation wing can safely accommodate 35 socially distant prisoners. As prisoners test negative, they are moved off the isolation unit.

Plans are already in place to safely accommodate prisoners in an additional isolation unit should the number of positive cases increase, he confirmed.

Prisoners who are categorised as low to medium risk inmates would also be kept on the isolation wing, if they are positive. At times, prisoners may need to be kept at high-risk units when there are serious internal breaches against Prison Regulations and Discipline.

Where a prisoner's symptoms require a higher level of care, the health care staff will make a recommendation for hospitalisation, working in conjunction with Public Health officials.

Prisoners with particular underlying health conditions that place them at higher risk are monitored more closely by nursing staff.

The Registered Nurse assigned to HMCIPS, Nurse Winslett Blake, confirmed that there was a continuum of medical care for prisoners which included the option of transporting them when hospitalisation was required.

“Prisoners’ health is something we take very seriously,” she said. “In the event that a prisoner is in need of hospitalisation, they will have access to appropriate hospital facilities and medical practitioners.”

To reduce interaction between the prison community and the outside community, social visits have stopped and, instead, prisoners have been encouraged to conduct virtual visits via social media to keep in touch with family and loved ones.

If a visitor requires entry to HMCIPS for any reason they must have a negative lateral flow test; masks and hand sanitisation is also required before entry to the prison. All HMCIPS staff and prisoners are required to wear masks at all times. Prisoners required to leave the premises for attendance at court or transportation to the hospital are also LFT tested beforehand, if required.

HMCIPS staff are required to do observed LFTs daily before they enter the prison to report to work. Any staff member who tests positive is then required to comply with Public Health guidelines of confirmation testing and the required isolation period. To ensure adequate staffing of the prison, management enlists healthy personnel to work extra hours to keep the service operational. Thankfully, since the start of community spread only two staff members have required hospitalisation, both of whom have since returned to duties, the nurse advised.

A deep cleaning programme is also being utilised.

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