THERE are plans to deploy a rapid response team of corrective services officers to Bathurst Correctional Centre should staffing levels continue to plummet following an outbreak of COVID-19.
The jail remains in lockdown after eight of its officers tested positive to the virus.
It is understood a significant number of staff, deemed either close or casual contacts of the infectious officers, remain in isolation, severely testing staffing levels.
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Corrective Services NSW has refused to comment on the origin of the outbreak, only saying investigations "are continuing into the source of the infection".
The outbreak in the facility began Thursday, August 26 and, by August 30, the Bathurst jail, along with every other in the state, was locked down, with no movements in or out, staff isolating and contact tracing underway.
While Corrective Services NSW would not comment on how many staff are in isolation as a result of being a close or casual contact, a spokeswoman said work is underway to establish additional teams of officers and administration staff to be rapidly deployed if and when required.
She said the safety of all staff and inmates remains the number one priority.
The spokeswoman said Corrective Services NSW continues to follow the expert advice of NSW Health and Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network in making decisions.
"Bathurst Correctional Centre remains in lockdown while extra precautions are being taken to manage the risk posed by COVID-19," she said.
"Rapid antigen screening was rolled out to staff and inmates at the centre this week [last week] after several staff members were among recent confirmed COVID-19 cases."
She said rapid deployment teams have not been needed at any correctional centre across the state so far, including Bathurst.
The spokeswoman said while Bathurst Correctional Centre remains in lockdown, 29 correctional centres acros the state have been cleared to return to normal COVID-19 restricted routines.
The statewide lockdown was initiated in response to the situation at Bathurst and at Parklea prison, which has also experienced an outbreak. There, more than 60 prisoners had been infected by September 3.
When asked about inmate infection rates at Bathurst, a spokesperson for Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network said the network is working closely with Corrective Services NSW and Youth Justice NSW to manage positive COVID-19 cases.
They were unable to say if there were any COVID-19 inmate case numbers within Bathurst Correctional Centre, but said there was a protocol in place for inmates with the virus.
"The Network's protocol is to move positive adult COVID-19 cases to a central location at the Silverwater Correctional Complex, where they can be kept separate from the rest of the prison population, their care can be properly managed and they can be near a tertiary hospital in case it is needed," they said.
The network was also unable to provide specific vaccination levels for the Bathurst facility, saying only it has delivered vaccinations to staff and patients across NSW.
"Currently, 21 per cent of patients in custody are fully vaccinated; 42 per cent have had one dose."
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