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Overcrowding: Home secretary accused of ‘failing to learn lessons’ from Napier Barracks mass Covid outbreak

It has emerged that 59 asylum-seekers are still sleeping in communal dorms

PRITI PATEL was accused of failing to learn lessons from a recent mass outbreak of Covid at Napier Barracks today after it emerged 59 asylum-seekers are still sleeping in communal dorms. 

The Home Secretary faced a furious grilling by a committee of MPs over whether she knew about Public Health England (PHE) advice against using dorms at the barracks in Kent. 

After repeatedly dodging the question, Ms Patel said she had “obviously” not been shown PHE emails but stressed that “guidance has been shifting” since a court ruling in June found that the Home Office had ignored the advice. PHE said in September: “I don’t know how dormitories can be Covid compliant.”

Despite this, Ms Patel told MPs in February, when 200 infections were recorded at Napier, that public health guidance had been followed throughout. 

Home Office minister Matthew Rycroft revealed that 103 men are still in the barracks, 59 of whom are sleeping in dorms of up to 14 people. 

Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper said: “You guys just don’t learn lessons do you? It’s just astonishing. It’s irresponsible to the people who are being put in Covid unsafe situations and it’s irresponsible for the taxpayer as well.”

Ms Patel was also accused of sitting on the full report into conditions at Napier Barracks by the Prisons Inspectorate since May. Skirting questions on when the report was sent to the Home Office, Ms Patel said it would be published before Parliament breaks for the summer on Thursday. 

SNP MSP Stewart McDonald said: “This is classic Home Office — an absolutely scathing report that you’ve had since May, and you’re going to put it out on the last day of term.”

An interim report by the prison watchdog found “fundamental failures” in the way the barracks were managed. 

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