The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to “take real action now” to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons, as new figures show that the number of Covid cases has surged more than five-fold in the last two months.
The figures, released today by the Ministry of Justice, show that, as of the end of November, 3,429 prisoners have now tested positive for Covid-19 – up 1,807 (111%) from 1,622 at the end of October and more than five times the 636 cases at the end of September.
There were 15 Covid-related deaths in prisons in November, the largest one-month total since April.
Figures released in September showed that a total of just 316 people were released under the Government's Covid early release schemes since the start of the pandemic – far short of the “up to 4,000" announced by Government in April.
Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“With more than 3,000 prisoners testing positive for coronavirus, but only 316 being released early, it is clear the Conservative Government hasn't done nearly enough to protect prison staff, prisoners and our communities from the spread of the virus.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences to alleviate the severe overcrowding, so that prisoners and staff can practice proper social distancing.
“The Government must finally listen to prison governors, public health experts and the Liberal Democrats, and take real action now to end overcrowding in prisons and combat the spread of this cruel virus.”