| 8.9°C Belfast

Leukaemia sufferer housed at Napier Barracks during Covid outbreak – inspectors

Health experts who visited the military site found that proper social distancing was impossible in the packed dormitories, according to a report.

Close

Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, has been used to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers (PA)

Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, has been used to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers (PA)

Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, has been used to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers (PA)

An asylum seeker suffering with leukaemia was living at scandal-hit Napier Barracks even as coronavirus ripped through the population, inspectors discovered.

Health experts who visited the military site found that proper social distancing was impossible in the packed dormitories, according to an NHS document.

The report, dated January 20 and seen by the PA news agency, raised concerns about the spread of infection.

It followed a visit to the barracks by Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

At the time of the report, 128 residents had tested positive for coronavirus, but the outbreak has since seen nearly 200 cases.

The Home Office on Thursday insisted the virus outbreak came despite its “best efforts” and said it has worked to address points raised in the report.

Among those living at the barracks at the time of the visit were clinically vulnerable people, including those with leukaemia and TB.

The ageing barracks, located in Folkestone in Kent, has been used as “emergency” accommodation since September last year, despite significant welfare concerns.

Holly Lynch MP, who obtained the document under the Freedom of Information Act, said it brings into question the Home Secretary’s continued defence of the barracks.

The shadow immigration minister told PA: “What the report makes absolutely crystal clear is that NHS experts were saying social distancing was just not going to be possible in this type of accommodation.”

She said the decision to use the Ministry of Defence-owned site “wasn’t one born out of necessity” and described it as a “political choice”.

Josie Naughton, co-founder and CEO of refugee charity Choose Love, said: “For the Government to blame asylum seekers for the Covid outbreak in the Napier barracks, while having full knowledge that it was impossible to social distance seems cruel and unfair.

“Sadly, we are no longer surprised by this hypocrisy. But even we were alarmed by their complete disregard of a report from the one organisation they claim to be doing their best to protect, the NHS.

“The Government now needs to accept their role in causing this Covid outbreak, close the barracks and stop putting vulnerable people’s lives on the line.

“Community-based accommodation is the only viable option left.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Despite our best efforts a number of those accommodated at Napier tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year.

“We worked with Kent and Medway CCG and our provider to address the points raised in the report from their visit, and also worked closely with Public Health England to follow all medical advice, including moving people from the site so they could self-isolate.

“There is currently no one accommodated at Napier who is Covid positive and we hope, shortly, that the outbreak will be declared over.”

PA


Top Videos



Privacy