13 December 2022

As you will know, on Wednesday 8th December the Prime Minister announced the implementation of Plan B to help manage the risk from the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. I wanted to let you know what this means for people in our prisons.

Health experts believe that this new variant will cause an increase in the number of cases of the virus in the community. So it makes sense that we start to put extra measures in place to keep your loved ones in prison safe.

We need to take extra precautions to reflect the heightened risk and the Governor will continue to risk assess to determine how to safely deliver regimes locally. This will, as always, be informed by public health advice.

We know how important it is for people in prison to be able to see their family and significant others so I would like to reassure you that there are no plans to stop social visits at this time, although there may sometimes be a local need to do that. However, we need your support in our work to help keep the virus out of our prisons by taking a Lateral Flow Test before you come in for your visit.

We will continue to provide extra pin credit and one free video call per person per month in prison to make sure they have other options, besides visits, to stay in touch with the people they care about, and who care about them.

Prisons are a high-risk setting due to the large number of people in a closed environment, so all staff, visitors and prisoners will be expected to wear masks or face coverings in order to keep each other safer whenever they are mixing with others.

We will also continue to strongly encourage anyone in prison who has been offered the vaccine to accept it, whether that be the first or second dose or the booster. I would greatly appreciate your support with this encouragement as this is still the best way to protect everyone. While there are cases of vaccinated people getting COVID again, it is likely to reduce the worst of the symptoms.

We had come so far in beginning to lift the restrictions to daily life in prisons caused by the pandemic, so it is frustrating to find ourselves back here again. However, we should take some confidence from the experience we have gained during the pandemic. We know what works in our prisons to reduce the risks as much as possible. Hopefully by making these changes early, and working together, we can keep each other safe.

Thank you for your continued co-operation.

Yours Sincerely,

Director General - Prisons