COVID-19: Guards want masks for inmates, freeze on staff movement as outbreak grows at B.C. prison

The union representing federal prison guards wants more protection against COVID-19.
The union representing federal prison guards wants more protection against COVID-19. Global News

The union representing Canadian prison workers is calling for new protection measures at a B.C. federal prison in the grips of the country’s worst inmate COVID-19 outbreak.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) said Monday that 41 inmates and six corrections officers at the Mission Institution have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The last update from the Correctional Service of Canada on April 12 lists 35 infected inmates.

READ MORE: 10 more inmates at Mission Institution test positive for COVID-19 for total of 35

There are 155 corrections officers working at the Mission Institution. It has a capacity for 216 inmates at the medium security wing — the site of the outbreak — and 324 inmates at its minimum security wing.

“Management must put an immediate stop to the movement of staff between institutions and reduce movement between posts within the institution, as has been done elsewhere,” said Derek Chin, UCCO-SACC-CSN pacific regional president in a statement.

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COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada
COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada

“Management must also make sure that proper cleaning is done on a regular and ongoing basis by a professional cleaning company.”

The union is also calling for the immediate distribution of surgical masks to inmates as the number of cases at the prison continues to climb.

READ MORE: More than 100 federal inmates, corrections officers test positive for COVID-19

As of Wednesday, the CSC has directed corrections officers and all other staff across the federal prison network to wear masks if they’re forced to be within two metres of other people, including inmates and other staff and contractors.

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On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said eight of the infected inmates at the Mission Institution had been hospitalized.

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Coronavirus outbreak at Mission Institution
Coronavirus outbreak at Mission Institution

The prison has been locked down as health and corrections health officials work to contain the outbreak.

Visits have been suspended and all staff are screening when entering and leaving the facility.

“We are working very hard to ensure that the transmission within that facility will be contained,” said Dr. Henry.

READ MORE: 25 inmates, 3 staff infected as COVID-19 outbreak in B.C. prison worsens

“There was quite a lot of transmission that happened before the outbreak was recognize, and we are now seeing people who were exposed over the previous two weeks developing symptoms, and there’s ongoing testing and surveillance that continues in that facility.”

Global News has requested comment from the Correctional Service of Canada.

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The CSC has previously said it is in discussions with the Parole Board of Canada, local health authorities and community leaders to identify inmates who could qualify for temporary release and “what that would look like.”