Preston Prison hit by major Covid outbreak

Preston Prison has been hit by another major Covid outbreak, with one inmate claiming as many as 58 cases have been diagnosed on just one wing this week.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 7:00 am

The remand prisoner, who has tested positive for the virus along with his cellmate, told his partner: “The place is riddled with it. It’s just horrific.”

Inmates with coronavirus are said to be locked down for all-but 15 minutes every day - just enough time to have a shower. Others are shut in their cells for 22.5 hours in an attempt to keep the infection rate down.

“I’m worried about him, very worried,” said the woman from Preston, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against her partner.

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Inmates say they are under virtual lockdown as jail fights Covid outbreak.

“I spoke to him on the phone yesterday and he is coughing and spluttering. He couldn’t get his breath and yet there’s very little ventilation. He says he can’t even get any paracetamol.

“They might be in prison, but they are still human beings. It’s awful.”

Prison authorities say they are working to limit the spread of the virus at Preston and insist inmates are being provided with proper medical attention.

Back in August, after the first national lockdown, there were no confirmed cases of Covid in the jail. But the virus came back with a vengeance in November with 164 cases reported.

Preston Prison was reported to be Covid free in August.

In all there were 241 cases at Preston Prison between March 2020 and the end of January 2021. Since then there has been a steady decline, leading prison bosses to announce family visits could finally restart soon after a ban lasting months. But the doors will now remain shut until the situation improves.

“We were expecting we could get a visit in the next two weeks, but now that’s off,” said the inmate’s partner. “He hasn’t seen his young daughter for five months and he was really looking forward to getting a visit.”

The news comes just months after an inspection by HM Prison and Probation Service found social distancing at HMP Preston was “all-but impossible” due to severe overcrowding at the Victorian jail.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice told the Post: “Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons.

One wing at least of the Victorian prison has been badly hit.

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

Under national Covid rules prisoners with a positive test are isolating in line with public health guidance. The rest do not face the same restrictions, although they still only get 90 minutes out of their cells a day.

The Ministry says those in isolation are able to shower, are brought their regular meals and have access to phones.

The prison is said to have plenty of soap and sanitiser available and prisoners receive “appropriate treatment” from the jail’s healthcare provider.

Officials say the prison is working closely with Public Health England and staff and prisoners all have access to PPE.

The inmate’s partner added: “From what I’m hearing this is a serious outbreak.”