Hundreds catch coronavirus in major prison outbreak

It is understood 27 prison staff and 230 inmates have tested positive for the virus after the infection spread rapidly through the jail.

Hundreds catch coronavirus in major prison outbreak HMP Kilmarnock
A high number of those impacted at HMP Kilmarnock have no symptoms.

More than 260 people have contracted Covid-19 at Kilmarnock prison after a huge outbreak, a senior source has revealed.

It is understood 27 prison staff and about 230 inmates have tested positive for the virus after the infection spread rapidly through the jail.

A high number of those impacted have no symptoms.

The number of cases could be equivalent to about half of the prison population at the Bowhouse site, it is estimated.

Last week it was reported 38 people had the virus in the jail but since then the number of cases has rocketed.

East Ayrshire currently has the highest weekly virus case rate in Scotland- at 310 cases per 100,000. But that high figure is thought to be due to the jail outbreak.

East Ayrshire Council leader Douglas Reid said: “It is a cause of concern. The outbreak at the prison has elevated East Ayrshire to the highest affected local authority in Scotland.

“We are thinking of the safety of the community and hope the outbreak is contained and dealt with within the prison. ”

The SNP Kilmarnock politician added: “I hope this doesn’t impact significantly on the wider community.”

Mass testing has taken place at the privately run Serco operated prison outside Hurlford in a bid to help contain the virus.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “The safety and wellbeing of those living and working in our prisons is a priority for the Scottish Prison Service. We have robust pandemic plans in place as we manage and support those in our care during these challenging times.

“Plans include issuing PPE and guidance for use, as well as self isolation as a precaution and testing is also available.”

NHS Ayrshire and Arran have been contacted for comment on the recent rise in cases.

Last week the health board confirmed it has been working with HMP Kilmarnock.

Story by local democracy reporter Sarah Hilley