The Cayman Islands Independent Monitoring Board for Prisons and Places of Detention has issued its latest report into the state of local prisons.

HMP Northward has been closed to the public after two male inmates tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement issued by Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service Tuesday morning.

Prison authorities confirmed the cases, saying both men are asymptomatic and have been isolated.

“The results follow a prison-wide screen testing programme, which began earlier this month and was available to all inmates and staff. Test results from some staff and prisoners remain outstanding as of Tuesday, 19 May,” the statement said.

Northward is now fully isolated from the public, the statement said, “and its internal blocks are isolated from each other, while the prison population and staffing group are retested”.

Last month, the prison suspended in-person visits with inmates, replacing those with Skype and messenger interactions.

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The positive cases follow an announcement last night from Foster’s that two of its employees at its West Bay Republix store also tested positive for COVID-19.

It was the third local supermarket to confirm cases among its employees, after Kirk Market and Cost-U-Less.

According to the HMCIPS statement, since late last year the two inmates were being held in the remand block of HMP Northward ahead of their trials.

All other prisoners in this block have returned negative test results for COVID-19, according to the statement.

“Staff and inmates are understandably anxious about the news but they have been assured that we are taking all the necessary steps to test, track and isolate cases. This latest incident, while unfortunate, does however indicate that testing everyone at the prison despite no one having symptoms was the right thing to do,” said Prison Director Steven Barrett in the statement.

However, prison authorities said robust hygiene procedures, social-distancing protocols and restricted staff access to the prison have been in place at both of Cayman‘s prisons since March.

“These measures included prisoners being required to isolate for 14 days in the admission wing prior to entering the main prison population, as well as the early release of non-violent prisoners to enable greater social distancing,” it stated.

Testing at the prison is being conducted as part of government’s expanded programme to detect COVID-19 cases within the community.

“We will continue to work closely with the Public Health Department to determine the best way forward from here. The health and wellbeing of staff and prisoners remains our absolute primary focus,” Barrett added.

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