A PRISONER has raised concerns about the lack of mandatory COVID testing in HMP Kilmarnock.

George McKnight, of Kilwinning, faces two charges under the Firearms Act 1968, as well as two assault charges and a robbery charge,

He claims that he has only been offered one COVID test since December and has been forced to share a cell with others who have not been tested or quarantined before their arrival at the prison.

George McKnight told the Herald: “I have been remanded since December 2020 and have been serving my sentences back-to-back and still waiting on a court date due to COVID.

“I have been here for seven months and I have only been tested for COVID once. It took two weeks to get the result back.

“We used to be opened up all day, but we are now confined to our rooms and only allowed outside for one hour, so we can’t get fresh air.

“Because there is a backup in the court due of COVID, they are doubling up the rooms, so there are people brought in off the street, you can be doubled up with them and they haven’t been tested so we don’t know if we or they have COVID.

“They have medical rooms that could be used to quarantine people, but they do not use them, they just get put in the cell with us.”

“None of us are getting an explanation for these decisions and I feel like I am the only one able to speak out. We are all at risk of getting COVID and it spreading through the jail with no fresh air circulating.”

The Herald reported in February this year about a COVID outbreak at the jail, where two wings were affected by the spread of the infection.

It resulted in a prisoner being hospitalized with coronavirus with almost 300 inmates and staff tested positive for COVID-19 during that time. 

Ayrshire and Arran Health Board are responsible for the testing in the prison. They say that although the tests are not mandatory, since March 2021, all prisoners can volunteer for one.

Craig McArthur, Director of East Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership said: “Symptomatic testing has been carried out routinely in HMP Kilmarnock since March 2020, where appropriate precautions are put in place to isolate individuals who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

“In March 2021, the prison healthcare team introduced the offer of routine asymptomatic PCR testing for all new admissions to HMP Kilmarnock and were one of the first prisons in Scotland to do so.

“At present, testing on admission is not mandatory and is undertaken on a voluntary basis.

“There is currently no requirement for individuals who are asymptomatic to be isolated. The implementation has been supported by NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Public Health department.”