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Frances Crook's blog · 9 Mar 2021

Long Covid in prison

Frances Crook in front of office bookshelves

We are all aware that contracting Covid can have devastating effects and I know two people who have been suffering from ‘long Covid’ that has laid them out for almost a year. Health services are only just beginning to investigate the many different symptoms and what treatments might be useful.

The Howard League has focused on preventing people from dying from Covid in prisons, but recently I have been asking about what is being done to identify and care for people in prison who have caught long Covid. I have been astonished at the response from various government agencies – you know who you are.

The response has been that, since it is a clinical issue, it is up to individual prisoners to ask for medical help and that this is a confidential doctor-patient matter. Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that, because people have been locked up all day for a year, it is not possible to know if they are lethargic, have brain fog and their bodies are failing to function because they spend all day in bed. We know that prisoners, if they do ask for help, have sometimes found it challenging to get to see a doctor.

What is being done to find out who has been infected with long Covid whilst in prison and what is being done about it?

We know that people have died with/from Covid in prisons. Indeed, the number of people dying seems to have gone up recently.

In the two-week period up to 1 March, 24 people in prison died either after testing positive for Covid or where there was a clinical assessment that Covid was a contributory factor. In the week ending 1 March, 511 people in prison – including either one or two children – tested positive. The number of sites reporting positive tests was 63.

Over the last year, thousands will have been infected with Covid whilst they are in prison and it is safe to assume that some of them will consequently be suffering from long Covid.

We don’t yet know if long Covid will affect people for life and how to treat the many different symptoms people suffer. I appreciate it presents challenges to health services, but my question to prison managers remains: what is being done to find out who has been infected with long Covid whilst in prison and what is being done about it?

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