SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Almost 1,000 prisoners in the Netherlands have been put in preventive quarantine because fellow detainees or prison staff have tested positive for coronavirus, broadcaster NOS reports.
Two prisons, one in Nieuwegein housing 335 prisoners, and Ter Apel which houses over 400, are in total quarantine while in Grave, Zaanstad, Roermond and Heerhugowaard, parts of the prisons have been put into isolation.
Some 29 prisoners in total have been found to have the virus, NOS said. Some 8,717 people are currently in jail in the Netherlands.
Health minister Sander Dekker has asked the government advisors for their recommendations on the efficacy of current measures, and the potential effect of the more contagious variant of the virus first identified in Britain.
Lawyers are worried about the large number of quarantined prisoners, who are not allowed to shower and who are, in the main, are banned form wearing facemasks.
Dekker has said the ban is a safety measure and prison staff have to be able to see prisoners’ faces to gauge their mood.
Experts have also said that stopping prisoners from going on leave will make it more difficult for them to return to a society in which coronavirus measures such as social distancing are now the norm.
‘When prisoners are released, they suddenly find themselves in a situation which, unlike us, they have been unable to adapt to,’ criminologist Elanie Ridermond told the broadcaster.
Earlier this month, 19 prisoners in Heerhugowaard started legal action against the prison director for failing to protect them against coronavirus – because of the ban on face masks.