Please attribute to Neil Beales, Chief Custodial Officer

Corrections has been advised by Public Health that a staff member at Spring Hill Corrections Facility (SHCF) is no longer considered a positive case of COVID-19 following further investigation.

The Corrections Officer returned a positive result on Sunday evening. They were tested after being contacted on Saturday night and advised that they had visited a location of interest in Auckland. The staff member had no symptoms and was fully vaccinated.

I would like to acknowledge the staff member for doing all the right things when they were first notified of their connection to a location of interest. We all know how much more transmissible the Delta variant of COVID-19 is, and the staff member’s actions enabled us to respond to the risk that the positive test result presented quickly.

At every step we have followed the guidance of Public Health in our response. We are not prepared to take any risks with COVID-19 in our environment. As we have seen in prisons internationally, the impact can be devastating. We have a duty of care to the men and women we manage in prisons, and to our staff, and everything we have put in place to manage the threat of COVID-19 has been based on prioritising their safety and wellbeing.

Once we became aware of the positive test result on Monday evening we acted immediately to identify 23 staff who had contact with the person and advised them to self isolate and get tested. The unit that the staff member worked in became a quarantine unit with staff wearing increased PPE, we undertook deep cleaning of shared spaces and all 123 men in the unit were tested for COVID-19. To date we know that 16 of the 23 staff, and all 123 prisoners have tested negative. No further tests for staff or prisoners are required in light of the staff member not being considered a positive case, and staff are no longer required to self isolate.

The team at SHCF have done an exceptional job this week. Despite the concern that they and their family members would have had this week they have moved quickly and carefully to ensure that our operations were running safely, carried out a huge number of COVID-19 tests and provided support to men in the impacted unit. We could not be prouder of them.

We were well prepared for this situation. Since March 2020 we have put in place extensive plans to manage any risk to our staff or the people we manage, and we have continued to refine these plans in order to do everything we can to keep our staff and the people we manage safe from COVID-19. This includes robust infection prevention and control plans at all Alert Levels, with detailed record keeping for both staff and visitors to our sites to enable fast and thorough contact tracing. Spring Hill Corrections Facility is also one of the sites nationwide that has already implemented proximity detection technology. This is delivered through smart card holders, to assist with contact tracing within prison sites across the country for staff, contractors and visitors.

Regardless of our infection control measures, we understand the emotional and mental toll this may have on men in the impacted unit. This was hugely worrying for them and their friends and family members. I want to acknowledge their cooperation while we worked through the response. The unit will now transition to operating in line with our Alert Level 3 settings.