There are no active cases of COVID-19 at Her Majesty Prisons Dodds, St. Philip, as of yesterday, Friday, February 19.
Minister of Home Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, announced this today during a press conference on the Zoom platform, where he spoke about the state of affairs at that institution in relation to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 there, as well as operations at the island’s post offices.
Speaking about the prison situation, he said: “I am pleased to report that as of yesterday, and still today, there are currently no active cases of COVID-19 within the staff or prison population at Her Majesty Prisons Dodds. This potentially disastrous situation was managed and brought under control through rigid adherence to the protocols set for its control, and by constant communication and cooperation by and between all concerned. And, this included in large measure the inmate population at the prison as well.”
The Minister recalled that on December 31, 2020, the island’s Prison Service was alerted that two members of staff tested positive for COVID-19, and there was the likelihood that the virus would be present within the prison population.
Recounting the experience over the period December 31, 2020, to January 1, 2021, Mr. Abrahams said all members of staff and the entire prison population were tested for COVID-19 and the initial results showed that some 53 persons were positive for COVID-19 at that time. “This number would grow to 102 members of staff and 264 prisoners, a total of 366 persons at the peak,” he recalled.
While he commended the work of the Barbados Defence Force, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the medical staff of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, he also singled out the efforts of Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Corey Forde, who is responsible for the isolation facilities across Barbados, as well as Dr. Carl Ward, whom he stressed was “hands on and instrumental in assisting us in managing the situation at the prison”, and described him as now being a ‘friend of the prison’.
Minister Abrahams also extended gratitude to Major Cedric Proverbs of the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), who managed the facility in the absence of its Superintendent, and to the prison officers who managed the first 14 days of the crisis at the prison.
He also praised those who braved either quarantine or isolation and immediately returned to duty following that experience, and the management and staff of the Hilton Barbados, Sunbay Hotel and the School Meals Department for “their sterling efforts in assisting the Prison Service at this “most difficult time”.
Mr. Abrahams also thanked the Barbadian public and the media for their assistance in facilitating the “return to normalcy, and for the understanding of what could have been a very difficult and traumatic experience for some”.
Media personnel, in particular, was lauded for getting the message out and being able to answer questions from concerned relatives and friends of those who are incarcerated, and for assisting in getting the facts out to the public, and “dispelling a lot of the vicious fake facts and mischief” that were circulating.
The Home Affairs Minister stated that he had formally spoken to the Barbados Defence Force, the Chief of Staff of the BDF, as well as the Commissioner of Police, and thanked them for their assistance in stepping forward and providing relief systems for the short shifts at the prison during the crisis.
Mr. Abrahams also told media representatives that the protocol for ensuring the timely release of those who have served their entire sentence has been working well, and persons due for release are being released as scheduled.
He further informed them that with respect to vaccinations to date, over 64 members of staff had been vaccinated and other members would be inoculated as the opportunity arises next week. Elaborating on this, Mr. Abrahams said:
“From a very practical perspective, because some people do suffer the side effects of the vaccination, we couldn’t vaccinate all of the prison officers who wanted to at one time. We had to stagger it to make sure we don’t compromise the shifts that we worked so hard to build back.”