COVID-19 outbreak growing at EMDC

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) is prompting calls for more to be done to protect inmates and staff.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit has confirmed that since Jan. 4, 83 inmates and 48 staff have tested positive. As of Friday, 39 inmate cases and seven staff cases remain active.

The growing number of cases is causing concerns, and calls for action to make the jail safer.

Lawyer Kevin Egan, who has represented a number the families of inmates who have died at the facility, isn't surprised by the situation.

"It's kind of inevitable when you have an aged infrastructure like EMDC with a closed ventilation system…two to three to a cell that's designed to hold one person, and have a pandemic with such a contagious disease."

Egan has called the facility a "petri dish" since the pandemic started.

"It's something the government ought to have been aware of and ought to have taken steps to prevent and they haven't done that," he said.

On top of being cut off from family, friends work and other supports, Egan added they shouldn't also have to contend with a dangerous disease.

"It's a shame and it's a disgrace."

He believes at least some cases could have been prevented if the province listened to recommendations to replace the outdated facility.

The health unit continues to monitor the situation.

A statement received by the Ministry of the Solicitor General says, "The ministry is aware that the Middlesex-London Health Unit has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. Local public health authorities determine case thresholds for a declared institutional outbreak. Each facility has its own pandemic plan in place prepared in consultation with local public health partners."

When it comes to vaccination, the release from the ministry goes on to say, "The ministry has its own supply of COVID-19 vaccines and makes the vaccine available to all eligible inmates on an ongoing basis. Ministry clinical staff have access to inmate vaccination records via the provincial COVAX system."

— With files from CTV News London's Amanda Taccone