Corrections has announced that it will require prison visitors to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by December 9.
In a statement, Corrections announced today that it will require that all private visitors to prisons across the country have received their first vaccination by November 13 and are fully vaccinated by December 9.
The new requirements exclude visitors under the age of 12.
Custody chief Neil Beales said the decision was not made lightly and that it will have a significant impact on people in prison with unvaccinated friends and whānau.
Beales said that requiring visitors to be vaccinated reduces the chance that Covid-19 will be taken to prison in the first place.
“Ultimately, we take our duty to care for people in prison and the well-being of our staff very seriously, and we must act to prevent them from suffering the very serious harm from Covid-19. Requiring visitors to be vaccinated reduces the potential of Covid-19 will be brought into a prison. This will also help to minimize the impacts on the overall healthcare system, which could face additional pressure if a Covid-19 outbreak were to occur in a prison. “
Beales said inmates are some of the most susceptible to the virus, and many are vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions and the possible ease of transmission in a prison setting.
A jail outbreak would also disproportionately affect Maori, he said.
“As we have seen internationally, Covid-19 can be extremely devastating in residential settings with large numbers of people living in close proximity to each other. Internationally, many prison staff and prisoners have become very ill and some have died as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks in prisons, ”Beales said.
Despite handling 21 people infected with Covid-19 during the pandemic, he said Corrections has managed to prevent transmission to prisoners or staff.
However, Beales said the department had to proactively plan and prepare for the potential for an outbreak within its prisons.
“We have already taken extensive measures to keep Covid-19 out of prisons, with health screenings and PPE requirements as a standard part of our entry requirements for all visitors. We also manage newly received prisoners separately during their first few years. 14 days in custody, and Routine tests for Covid-19 on days 0, 5 and 12.
“This is yet another step we are taking to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the people we manage and our staff, and to give additional assurances to the whānau and friends of those in prison that we are all giving steps to protect them. COVID-19. “
Requirements for private visitors
- As of November 13, 2021: All private visitors to the prison over the age of 12 must have received at least one vaccination. Before the vaccination certificates are published, they will be asked to present a Covid-19 vaccination record card or a hard copy of their online My Covid registry.
- As of December 9, 2021: all private visitors to the prison over the age of 12 must be fully vaccinated. They will be asked to present a printed version of their vaccination certificate upon arrival.
Beales said the corrections will continue to provide facilities to ensure inmates can communicate with friends and whānau until they can meet the new requirements.
Corrections will be in contact with the approved visitors of current inmates to outline the new requirements in the coming days.