Reporter: Prim Kamolyabutr
Date Published: 21 January 2021
Covid-19 has been assessed to be factor in deaths of 24 prisoners in December as the cases surge by 70% and increase by 50% in just one month.
Not only is coronavirus scary for us all in the outside world, but behind bars, the number of prisoners in England and Wales who have tested positive for coronavirus and have died has risen by 50% in just one month.
As of December 2020, these are the summary of statistics:
24 prisoners - died or were tested positive for Covid-19.
A clinical assessment was conducted and showed that the virus was a contributing factor to almost all other deaths which totals the number of deaths to 71.
2,400 prisoners have tested positive since the beginning of December.
Total number of positive cases since the start of the pandemic has now risen 70% to a number of 4,800.
The increase in coronavirus cases in the prison transmit into the community and the Ministry of Justic has been testing out ways to prevent this but sources have told “The Guardian” that this virus was actually a main contributing factor to just a third of the death cases in prison. Prisoners are becoming more vulnerable and are expected to be vaccinated in line with the vaccine rollout, but it seems these measures are not good enough.
David Lammy, a shadow justice secretary, said that “the government had lost control of the crisis, it is frightening that the government has lost control of the virus in prisons. More staff and inmates will die if ministers do not get control of this pandemic.
“Outbreaks in prisons can also pump the virus outside of their walls, overwhelming local hospitals and infecting the rest of the community. The government must rapidly roll out vaccines across the country so that we can secure our economy, protect our NHS and rebuild Britain.”
Since there are about 79,000 prisoners and 121 prisons in England and Wales, testing programs and preventative measures had to be launched. A mass testing programme was launched in July to all prisoners in 28 prisons and covered about a fifth of the population.. This program was to help understand the spread of the disease in jails and any inmates who test positive are included in the data. Other than that, the Ministry of Justice said that they started routinely testing all offenders who arrive from the courts, those who transfer across the prison estate, as well as frontline staff.
Prisons got placed under a highly restrictive regime during spring all the way across summer and autumn until the situation started to ease. The community in England and Wales is still under national lockdown, social visits are suspended in England except for certain grounds, and visits of children in the Youth Custody Estate for the people in prison are still continued.
This surge in cases and increase in deaths has presented a challenge for ministers and prison officials. They have faced warnings about the devastating longer-term impact of subjecting prisoners to a highly restrictive regime, but have chosen to protect staff and inmates from the virus as a priority. “Our condolences are with all those who have lost loved ones. Our carefully implemented measures, including shielding and mass testing, have meant that the number of Covid-related deaths is significantly lower than predicted at the start of the pandemic”, words from A Prison Service spokesperson.
This goes to show that Covid-19 will not be stopping at any expense and is even affecting areas of the population that have no other preventative measures and are already locked in. We hope to see that prisons all over the world are taking as careful and safe measures as possible regarding the spread of the virus, whether or not the cases in their prison has risen.