Attributable to Lynette Cave, Northern Regional Commissioner:

Corrections is providing advice, and support where requested, to Serco at Auckland South Corrections Facility (ASCF) following 22 men at the prison returning positive rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 during the last 36 hours. PCR testing has been undertaken to confirm these test results. Some of the 22 men are mildly symptomatic, with care being provided by nursing staff.

One house block at the prison (housing 226 men) has been placed into quarantine with staff working in the unit wearing full PPE, which included face masks, gloves, glasses and gowns.

Vaccination rates are high at ASCF, with approximately 80% of men at the prison fully vaccinated as at 7 February. The total prison population at the site is 771.

Two Serco staff have also tested positive. In total, 39 staff have been identified as close contacts of COVID-19 positive prisoners or staff and stood down. In total, over 350 staff work at ASCF.

Although independently operated, Auckland South Corrections Facility is part of the national prison network and Corrections staff are providing support.

In addition, we are caring for one man at Northland Region Corrections Facility and one man at Mt Eden Corrections Facility with COVID-19. These are confirmed active cases following the return of a positive PCR test. We publish active case information on our website every weekday.

Corrections is an organisation of over 10,000 staff working across prisons, the community and corporate environments. We don’t centrally collate the total number of our staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 – while many staff disclose the reason for their sick leave, this is their personal health information. However, we know that there are a further five custodial staff in our Northern Region with COVID-19 (in addition to the two at ASCF).

As we have seen overseas, the impacts of COVID-19 in a prison environment can be devastating. Therefore, we have been learning from overseas jurisdictions about the best ways to manage COVID-19 in prisons.

Since March 2020 we have managed over 80 prisoners with COVID-19 in prisons. We have been actively planning and preparing for the potential of increased cases in prisons, particularly given the increased number of cases in our communities. This has included introducing:

  • Separation and quarantine units at each prison site
  • Routine testing for all newly arrived people into prisons for their first 14 days (including the use of rapid antigen tests on arrival, and PCR tests throughout their 14 days)
  • Extensive use of PPE by staff and prisoners
  • Additional support for vulnerable populations such as those with underlying medical conditions
  • Requirements for all visitors to prisons aged 12 and over to be vaccinated
  • Extensive vaccination programme for prisoners, with almost 18,000 doses administered as at 7 February
  • Mandated vaccinations for all prison-based staff
  • Three stage model for prisons which reflects the risk at a specific prison and guides their operations - restrictions on activities at higher stages

More information on how Corrections is managing COVID-19 in prisons, including active case numbers, vaccination statistics, and details of the three stage model can be found on our website.

Background information:

Corrections contracted SecureFuture (the Public Private Partner) to design, build, finance and operate and maintain Auckland South Corrections Facility (ASCF). The contract has a 25 year operating term commencing on 18 May 2015 and ending May 2040.

SecureFuture is responsible for ensuring compliance with contractual and statutory obligations. SecureFuture has subcontracted Serco to operate and maintain ASCF.  The Department does not have a direct contractual relationship with Serco, but does have oversight of the prison as it is a part of the national prison network.