Spring Hill Prison in north Waikato has confirmed the presence of COVID-19 at the facility, after an Auckland-based staff member tested positive to the virus yesterday.
Prison Director, Scott Walker said he was advised of the positive test result last night.
“The staff member lives in Auckland, is fully vaccinated and has not displayed any symptoms,” he said.
“We took immediate action on Monday night to identify and contact 23 staff who had contact with the person while they were at work.
“All have been advised to isolate and get tested in line with advice from the public health unit. These staff will not come back to work until they have returned negative tests and been cleared by the Public Health team.”
He confirmed that the staff member had worked at the prison on Saturday 28 August.
“That evening they were notified that they were linked to a recent location of interest. They immediately self-isolated and were tested on Sunday. That test returned a positive result on Monday evening.”
“The unit guardroom and shared spaces have been deep cleaned this morning, and this will continue regularly.
“The unit is now operating as a quarantine unit which means all staff are wearing enhanced PPE, including masks, gloves, gowns and goggles when interacting with prisoners. Prisoners have also been instructed to wear PPE.
“Since New Zealand moved to Alert Level 4, there has been a requirement for staff to wear masks at all times inside the prison, and for prisoners to wear masks any time they are outside of their cell, with regular hand washing and sanitising taking place,” he confirmed.
Mr Walker said all 123 men in the unit where the staff member worked have also been segregated and were being tested for COVID-19 on-site today.
“Anyone who has been recently transferred out of the unit is being managed in the same way,” he said.
“We will continue to work with public health officials and take their advice to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these men, and our staff.
“A small number of men that were in the unit and have been released are being contacted and advised to isolate and get tested and will be followed up by the public health unit.”
He said 404 prisoners at the facility had received their first COVID-19 vaccination, with 45 prisoners fully vaccinated. Of the 123 men currently in the unit, 46 have received their first COVID-19 vaccination, Mr Walker said.
The Prison boss said management were well prepared for the situation they are now dealing with.
“Since March 2020 we have put in place extensive plans to manage any risk to our staff or the people we manage, and we have continued to refine these plans in order to do everything we can to keep our staff and the people we manage safe from COVID-19.”
“This includes robust infection prevention and control plans at all Alert Levels, with detailed record keeping for both staff and visitors to our sites to enable fast and thorough contact tracing.
“We also restrict access to our sites at Alert Level 4, with only essential frontline staff permitted to enter a prison.
“Spring Hill Corrections Facility is also one of the sites nationwide that have already implemented our proximity detection technology. This is delivered through smart card holders, to assist with contact tracing within prison sites across the country for staff, contractors and visitors,” Mr Walker said.
He also confirmed that 406 of SHCF’s 427 staff had received their first COVID-19 vaccination, with 288 staff fully vaccinated. Staff who have received a vaccine off-site have not been included in these figures.