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Scottish prison network hit by major Covid-19 outbreak

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The dramatic spike in Covid-19 infections across the Scottish prison network has taken the Scottish government by surprise

A major Covid-19 outbreak is sweeping through the Scottish prison network with infection rates almost doubling in a week.

According to Scottish Prison Service (SPS) statistics, the number of infections has increased from 189 to 364 cases in only seven days.

The dramatic spike in infections is concentrated at HMP Kilmarnock, where 247 positive cases have been recorded.

This is an increase of 52 percent over the past seven days when the number of infections at the prison stood at 162.

More broadly, significant Covid-19 outbreaks have been reported at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian (where 90 cases have been registered) and in HMP Dumfries, with 25 cases reported.

According to the SPS, 731 prisoners are currently self-isolating across 11 Scottish prisons.

The current Scottish prison population stands at 7,413.

Reacting to the latest disturbing figures, the SPS released the following statement: "On the recommendation of the Incident Management Teams, mobile testing units have this week been working in HMP Dumfries, HMP Kilmarnock and HMP Addiewell to support the prompt identification of cases".

Meanwhile, Scottish Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, admitted the current situation constitutes an “incredibly challenging time”, but maintained that “robust operational measures remain in place”.  

Beyond the government and officialdom, Judith Robertson, who is chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), has called for a reduction of the prisoner population to alleviate the problem.

Robertson claimed the SHRC has been “urging” the Scottish government to take action to improve “prison conditions” since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

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