You may have heard the Prime Minister say in his announcement on Monday 21 February that we are now moving to the next stage of ‘living with COVID’ in England.

Changes planned for the community during February, March and April include reducing the need to test for COVID and people no longer legally having to isolate if they test positive.

The Prime Minister also announced that guidance will be issued for vulnerable settings, and prisons fall under this category. This guidance will be released later, and this will help inform our decisions about how we continue to live with COVID in prisons.

We wanted to let you know that there will be no immediate changes to how prisons operate, and to explain why.

Prison visitors will still be required to test negative with a lateral flow device on the day for the visit to go ahead. This is because our priority remains keeping people in custody safe, and prisons are a higher-risk environment due to the number of people living and working so closely together in a closed environment.

Free testing is still available in the community until the end of March, and we advise all visitors aged 12 and over to carry on testing at home before travelling to the prison.

Tests will also be available in prisons for visitors who need them until the end of March, and we are currently reviewing our provision of tests from April onwards in response to the Prime Minister’s announcement.

We would like to reassure families and significant others that prison staff will continue with routine testing, and staff will also be advised not to attend work if they have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19.

We will also continue to test people in prison where appropriate and make sure they can isolate if they test positive.

We know that change can cause anxiety for some people, particularly if they have only experienced prison during the past two years of COVID restrictions.

Prison governors and staff will be speaking with everyone in prison before any changes are made, and we will provide further updates to families and significant others so that everyone knows what to expect.

We understand that you and your loved ones are eager to see change, and we will prioritise reducing COVID restrictions in prisons as soon as it is safe to do so.