Covid-19: Prisons to require proof of vaccination for visitors

covid-19:-prisons-to-require-proof-of-vaccination-for-visitors

Corrections has announced it will require visitors to prisons to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before 9 December.

Prison fencing at Paremoremo.

Prison fencing at Paremoremo. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

In a statement Corrections today announced it will require all private visitors to prisons nationwide to have had their first vaccine before 13 November and be fully vaccinated before 9 December.

The new requirements exclude visitors under the age of 12-years-old.

Chief custodial officer Neil Beales said the decision had not been made lightly and it will have a significant impact for people in prison with unvaccinated friends and whānau.

Beales said requiring visitors to be vaccinated lessens the potential for Covid-19 to be brought into prison in the first place.

“Ultimately, we take our duty of care to people in prison and the wellbeing of our staff seriously, and we must act to prevent them from the very serious harm that Covid-19 poses. Requiring visitors to be vaccinated lessens the potential for Covid-19 to be introduced to a prison. This will also help minimise impacts on the wider health system, which could face additional pressure if a Covid-19 outbreak occurred in a prison.”

Beales said inmates are some of the most susceptible to the virus, with many vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions and the potential ease of transmission in a prison environment.

An outbreak in prison would also disproportionately affect Māori, he said.

“As we have seen internationally, Covid-19 can be extremely devastating in residential environments with large numbers of people living in close proximity to each other. Internationally many prison staff and prisoners have become very unwell and some have died as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks in prisons,” Beales said.

Despite managing 21 Covid-19 infected people during the pandemic, he said Corrections have managed to avoid transmission to prisoners or staff.

However, Beales said the department had to proactively plan and prepare for the potential of an outbreak within its prisons.

“We have already taken extensive measures to keep Covid-19 out of prisons, with health screening and PPE requirements a standard part of our entry requirements for all visitors. We are also managing newly received prisoners separately for their first 14 days in custody, and carrying out routine testing for Covid-19 on days 0, 5 and 12.

“This is yet another step we are taking to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the people we manage and our staff, and to give extra assurance to the whānau and friends of those in prison that we are taking every step to protect them from Covid-19.”

Requirements for private vistors

  • From 13 November 2021: all private visitors to prison aged 12 and over will be required to have had at least one vaccination. Ahead of the release of vaccination certificates, they will be required to present either a Covid-19 vaccination record card or a printed copy of their online My Covid Record.
  • From 9 December 2021: all private visitors to prison aged 12 and over will be required to be fully vaccinated. They will be required to present a printed version of their vaccination certificate on arrival.

Beales said corrections will continue to provide facilities to ensure prisoners are able to contact friends and whānau until they are able to meet the new requirements.

Corrections will be contacting approved visitors of current inmates to outline the new requirements in the coming days.

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