Right from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tasmania Prison Service (TPS) has been prepared for the possibility of COVID-19 entering the prison system and have sufficient capacity to manage outbreaks should they occur.
The TPS has developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan as well as Outbreak Management Plans for each facility, and is actively implementing these, with a number of measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within TPS facilities.
This includes the temporary, but necessary, cessation of in-person visits from Monday, 10 January 2022, replaced by telephone and Zoom visits, and establishing dedicated isolation facilities within prisons to allow offenders who either contract COVID-19 or are considered close contacts to isolate and quarantine as required.
All offenders are also subject to testing and isolation when they are first received into TPS custody and are not exposed to the general prison population until the required isolation period and testing has been completed.
In addition, the TPS is continuing a range of measures which have been in place throughout the pandemic to reduce the risk of COVID-19. This includes increased cleaning, reminding offenders and staff of the COVID-19 safe behaviours, and the use of PPE as appropriate. Vaccination booster clinics for offenders continue to be conducted regularly as they become eligible, including one being conducted today.
Pleasingly, these measures are proving effective, with just two offenders and 15 TPS staff currently quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19. The prison has been supplied with 5000 RATs to assist with immediate testing capability.
Staff who test positive for COVID-19, or are considered close contacts of positive cases, are isolating at home in line with Public Health requirements, and affected prisoners are isolating within TPS facilities in line with the TPS’s COVID-19 management plans.
I am being regularly briefed on the work that is occurring to manage the risks associated with COVID-19 in our correctional facilities and appropriate steps are being taken to effectively manage both staff and offenders affected by COVID-19.
I thank all who have contributed to keeping staff and offenders safe throughout the pandemic, with this important work continuing.
Elise Archer, Minister for Corrections