Westgate inmate 'punished' for asking for alternative Covid-19 test
A Westgate inmate has spent almost a month on lockdown because of a row over Covid-19 tests, his family has claimed.
His mother said the prisoner, who is asthmatic with narrow nasal passages, had reacted badly to the PCR test for the coronavirus a year ago and had asked for the alternative saliva test – but had been penalised with lockdown for the request.
She said: “It’s totally ridiculous and I need Bermuda to hear it.”
The woman contacted The Royal Gazette after her son spent 28 days confined with inmates who had been exposed to the virus or refused to get tested.
But she said: “My son is not refusing the test. He is asking for something less difficult for him to endure and they have him in the lockdown unit.”
The PCR test, which uses a nasal swab, was ordered for prisoners in March.
Saliva testing for the coronavirus, available on the island since last year, was already in widespread use that month as a non-invasive testing procedure for schoolchildren, but the woman said her son had not been allowed to take it instead.
She added that he risked infection in the lockdown unit, where inmates share one shower and questioned why he had not been confined to his cell until alternative testing could be organised.
The woman said: “There are other inmates in the same locked unit who outright refuse any form of testing, who have been in direct contact with other inmates who have tested positive for Covid.”
Staff and inmates at the prison have tested positive for the coronavirus since last year, with the most recent infections confirmed by sources at the prison last month.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said he had been in Westgate for three years, but the prison still did not have his medical records to support his objection to the PCR test.
She said lockdown at Westgate allowed one hour outside the unit a day, but no outdoor time.
She added: “By standing up for his health, he’s now being punished.”
The Gazette asked the Department of Corrections on Friday if it had a plan to make the saliva test available – but no response was received by press time last night.