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B.C. prison outbreak worsens, 48 now infected with COVID-19

A health-care worker is silhouetted as they walk past the British Columbia mobile medical unit set up outside of Abbotsford Regional Hospital in Abbotsford, B.C. Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The mobile medical unit was deployed to Abbotsford to assist with the COVID-19 outbreak that has occurred at the Mission Correctional Institution.
A health-care worker is silhouetted as they walk past the British Columbia mobile medical unit set up outside of Abbotsford Regional Hospital in Abbotsford, B.C. Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The mobile medical unit was deployed to Abbotsford to assist with the COVID-19 outbreak that has occurred at the Mission Correctional Institution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada’s worst prison outbreak of COVID-19 has worsened again, according to B.C. health officials.

An outbreak at the medium-security Mission Institution has grown to 48 cases, including seven people in hospital, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday.

The union representing correctional officers says that the number of correctional officers who had contracted the virus remained unchanged at six.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak at Mission Institution' Coronavirus outbreak at Mission Institution
Coronavirus outbreak at Mission Institution

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.

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On Tuesday, the province announced that a mobile unit has been installed at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where a secure area has also been set up for the treatment of infected inmates.

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

On Wednesday, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) responded to concerns raised by the corrections officers’ union about masks and staff movement.

“We can confirm that employees at Mission Institution are not rotating between institutions, and the requirement for self-isolation will be reviewed prior to return to their home site on a case by case basis,” said a CSC spokesperson in an email.

Click to play video 'COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada' COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada
COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada

The CSC said COs have been given masks, and that inmates were also provided with masks last week.

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It added that inmate visits, temporary absences, work releases and institution transfers have all been temporarily suspended, along with prison programs and activities.

READ MORE: Mobile unit set up to help treat COVID-19 patients from B.C.’s Mission Institution

“CSC institutions have the capacity to continue operating in a safe and secure way,” states the email.

“We are attentive to the health of employees and are prepared to respond promptly to ensure the continued smooth operation of the facility.”

In previous communications, the CSC has raised the possibility of early release for some inmates amid the outbreak.

Dr. Henry said Wednesday that the province and the CSC have developed protocols and supports to ensure any inmate leaving an institution to ensure they remain in isolation for 14 days after release.