Calls for lessons to be learned as prison confirms second Covid outbreak

Covid outbreak at HMP Norwich.

More than 300 inmates and 100 staff have been infected during a mass Covid outbreak at HMP Norwich. - Credit: Archant

A prison which suffered a severe outbreak of Covid at the end of 2020 has confirmed it is currently battling a new spate of cases - and is being urged to be more open about it this time around.

Over the course of winter 2020, hundreds of inmates and staff members at HMP Norwich tested positive for Covid-19, with close to 600 inmates and 250 staff members catching the virus.

And at the height of the first outbreak - which began in November - more than 200 prisoners and 70 staff members were carrying the virus.

And now, it has been confirmed that the prison is battling a fresh outbreak, albeit one which the Ministry of Justice says contains significantly lower numbers than the first.

A Prisons Service spokesman said: "Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons.

“We have taken precautionary measures at HMP Norwich in line with public health guidance, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

HMP Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams

HMP Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

While the MoJ did confirm an outbreak, however, it did not confirm how many cases are active - which was a source of frustration for former county councillor George Nobbs, who represented the ward at the time.

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He said: "My hope this time around is that lessons have been learned from the first outbreak and that people are kept better informed.

"There is nothing for anyone to gain from secrecy. Last time there was a culture of denial in the whole prison - a feeling that somehow if they didn't talk about it, it would go away.

"I don't think people living nearby necessarily have anything to fear if it is contained to the prison, but people need to be kept informed."

Cllr George Nobbs(pictured), leader of the Council,
Cllr Toby Coke, chairman of the Environment, D

Former county councillor George Nobbs, who represented the Crome ward during the first prison outbreak - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Since the first outbreak, inmates have been required to take part in routine testing and if they return a positive result they are required to self-isolate.

The prison is also ensuring that staff dealing with Covid-positive prisoners have access to full PPE and that no inmate with the virus would subsequently share a cell.

The prison has also introduced a full-time contact tracing lead, who manages the isolation of inmates and staff members, all of whom are tested with rapid flow tests daily.