We need rapid COVID-19 testing in our prisons

We need rapid COVID-19 testing in our prisons

It took four days for the results of a swab from a man in a NSW prison to return a positive result for COVID-19.

However, by that time, he had left Bathurst jail and returned home to Walgett in the state’s north-west. He also stopped in Dubbo on his way through.

This delay meant that COVID-19 was likely circulating in vulnerable Aboriginal communities.

“It’s really a bomb going off”

The idea of a COVID-19 outbreak in our state’s prisons sends shock waves to families and friends of those inside.

Justice Action co-ordinator Brett Collins told the ABC that he has deep concerns about the state’s prisons.

“The moment that the infection gets inside any of the prisons it’s really a bomb going off,” he warned.

Mr Collins said social distancing in a prison was almost impossible for inmates, with two to three people in a cell “the size of an average bathroom”.

Mr Collins has urged the State to consider deploying the rapid testing kits as a priority.

“Even if it’s not a perfect result, [to have a result which] happens immediately, I think that’s absolutely essential,” he said.

A potential outbreak looms

The man left Bathurst Correctional Centre and headed to his home town of Walgett, stopping in Dubbo along the way.
The man left Bathurst Correctional Centre and headed to his home town of Walgett, stopping in Dubbo along the way.

The 27-year-old man tested upon his entry to the Bathurst Correctional Centre on Saturday afternoon, as a standard precaution for all new admissions.

Now, a second inmate has tested positive for the virus. The 29-year-old man is thought to have picked up the infection in Dubbo. He gave a swab on his arrival to the prison in Wednesday.

The man is now in a single cell awaiting results and contact tracing was already underway.

Consequently, Bathurst jail remains in a precautionary lock down.

Mr Collins labels the series of events “extremely dangerous”.

“It’s not surprising at all that it’s happened here in New South Wales,” he said.

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