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Prison visits suspended as 19 inmates test positive for Covid-19

by Priya Gulraj

Visits to Windmill Hill prison have been suspended for two weeks following an outbreak of Covid-19 after 19 prisoners tested positive for the virus, the Gibraltar Government said on Tuesday.

The first case was detected on December 26, with nine individuals testing positive from tests carried out on that day.

A further 10 individuals tested positive for Covid-19 on December 30, a Government spokesman told the Chronicle.

The source of the initial infection remains unknown, and is “impossible to identify”, the Government spokesman said.

At first visitors were restricted to one wing and during the Christmas period the visits were suspended to the wing where those who had tested positive.

On Tuesday, the Government said there were 19 prisoners who tested positive in the two wings in the two blocks, with no new further cases since December 30.

This led to the decision by the Prison Superintendent, Gareth Coom, and his senior management, to suspend all visits to Windmill Hill until January 17 in order to “stem the current spread of Covid-19 both internally and to those visitors accessing HMP Windmill Hill”.

“We consider all other prisoners as potentially at risk, they continue to be tested and their movements or contacts are restricted, with respect to those in their wing,” the Government spokesman said.

In addition, two members of staff are also self-isolating.

Prison officers are required to use PPE, regular testing and have restricted movements within the block.

Covid measures remain in place within the prison to stem the spread of the virus among the prison population and staff.

“The measures are and continue to be those laid down in 2020 in consultation with GHA and the Director of Public Health,” No.6 said.

“These protocols have been tightened and relaxed depending on cases in the community and include; treating wings as a bubble, thorough impetus on cleaning and hygiene (both wing and personal), isolation of new receptions, restriction on access to accommodation block by non-essential visitors, regular testing, monitoring of symptoms on negative and asymptomatic prisoners, regular testing of staff, full PPE on entering wings and use of disposal plates.”

At the start of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, two thirds of the prisoner population chose to be vaccinated and this was administered to them.

“However, the population (with the exception of the long termers) changes drastically, meaning that a new drive is being looked at in order to capture those who have not opted to get it whilst in the community and have arrived from abroad,” the spokesman added.

Meanwhile staff take up for the Covid vaccine and the booster has been “good”, the spokesman said.

In addition, prisoners remanded in custody by the Magistrates’ Court will continue to appear before the court via video link.

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