COVID-19 update and question and answer session – January 04, 2021. (PMO)

All prison officers, civilian staff and inmates of HMP Dodds Prisons were tested for COVID-19, and are now awaiting their second tests.

This was confirmed by Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, as he joined a team led by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, to update the nation on the recent outbreak of the virus during a televised and streamed broadcast.

“All of the prisoners have had their samples collected. We are still awaiting the results of the testing from some of them, but everybody has been tested. We are now about to roll into the second test after the five-day passage,” he indicated.

He explained that prior to the outbreak, prisoners who were feeling unwell were recommended for testing, however, full-scale testing began after a prison officer had a positive result. This, he said, was followed by an inmate also testing positive.

However, when pressed about whether there was a breach of COVID-19 protocols at the prison, Mr. Abrahams responded: “We are not there yet. Our first priority now is to stabilise what is happening in the prison, and to ensure that everybody gets tested and that people get the care that is warranted.

“After that, we will do full investigations into what happened and how the spread got to where it got to.  But being frank, that has not been our priority right now. It is challenging trying to manage that situation. We are trying to keep everybody calm. We are trying to provide the best care that we can for the persons who are within our care and custody and our control, and we are also trying to motivate the prison officers who are there and who are having a difficult time.”

He added that psychological counselling was sought for some prison officers to assist them in dealing with the uncertainty of the situation.

“So, trying to point a finger and finding out exactly where it happened, that will come after. Right now, our first priority is to get everybody tested; get categorised, and get the treatment that they are entitled to so that we can get past this situation,” the Minister emphasised.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mottley indicated that the Ministry of Health and Wellness was still in the process of plotting information, but noted that the process was not yet complete.

However, she stated that from the initial plotting, officials were satisfied that there was information to link one or two people from the prison to the West Coast, in terms of moonlighting, and added that until the plotting was completed, “anything at this stage would be speculative”.

The Prime Minister also stressed that because the two prison officers presented with symptoms, and triggered the interest of health officials, did not mean they were the first at the prison to have COVID-19.

“It means they were the first ones to display symptoms that led to our testing, and as a result, it led to a complete comprehensive testing of prisoners, prison officers, and civilian staff at Dodds. The public health people are still trying to determine where it started in the prison,” Ms. Mottley pointed out.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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