Inmates at a high-security Australian prison lit fires, smashed windows and flooded their cells with water, authorities said on Tuesday, after a lockdown sparked by a coronavirus outbreak resulted in a shortage of staff and services.
The unrest began a day earlier at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in the city of Brisbane, four days after local media said the prison went into lockdown due to two staff testing positive to COVID-19.
A shortage of replacement staff for those stood down to get tested for the virus had resulted in problems delivering basic services like meals and medication, the authorities said.
“There’s been some unrest (including) small amounts of fire that were lit, that were localised and easily extinguished,” Corrections Commissioner Peter Martin told reporters.
“In some cases, prisoners flooded their cells with water (and) there was the damage of some glass and also some CCTV.”
Some 400 of the prison’s 530 staff had been stood down to get tested, along with 170 prisoners, and replacement staff had faced challenges since “every prisoner is different, the technology is different and the processes are different”, Martin said.
Australia has so far avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other countries, with a total 657 deaths linked to the illness, after closures of national and internal borders put curbs on movement. The country has used location-specific lockdowns to control outbreaks.
Since the prison guards tested positive last week Queensland has put about 7,000 inmates into lockdown, prompting concerns from advocates about limited access to lawyers and essential support.
Reporting by Byron Kaye.