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Prisons 'ready to act' on coronavirus but visits still allowed

By Rob Smith | Market Drayton | Coronavirus | Published:

Prisons are primed to take action over the coronavirus outbreak – but visits are continuing for now.

The Ministry of Justice said "robust contingency plans" were in place for its prisons, which include Stoke Heath near Market Drayton, but specific measures will not be put in place at individual jails unless evidence of an outbreak becomes clear.

Visits are being allowed to continue, though those with possible coronavirus symptoms are being urged to stay away. Loved ones are been given the option of sending emails or leaving voice messages rather than physically visiting prisons.

The MoJ said measures would include the "isolation of individuals where necessary" but suggested mixing of inmates would not be reduced where there were no known coronavirus cases.

So far, cases have only been identified at HMP Manchester and HMP High Down.

An MoJ spokesman said prison conditions were being kept "as normal as possible" but that the situation was "changeable" and Government advice was being monitored.

The spokesman said: "We have put in place robust contingency plans in consultation with Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care.

"These use available evidence and prioritise the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors while making sure normal regimes experience the minimum possible disruption.

"As a result of this planning, prisons are well prepared to take immediate action wherever cases or suspected cases are identified, including the isolation of individuals where necessary."

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Britain's largest prison, Oakwood near Wolverhampton, is run by private firm G4S, which said it was "following national guidance".

John Whitwam, managing director of G4S custodial and detention services said: "The health and safety of our staff and the people in our care is our top priority.

"We have existing, well-developed policies and procedures in place to manage outbreaks of infectious diseases, and are closely following all national guidance in relation to Covid-19.

"We are holding daily discussion across all our sites to ensure our contingency plans are reviewed and revised accordingly."

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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