Staff at a north-east prison have been forced to take nearly 800 days off work because of Covid-19, new figures show.
Data uncovered by the Evening Express using Freedom of Information legislation shows a total of 761 working days were lost at HMP Grampian between March and October as a result of the pandemic.
Of those, 282 days were lost due to staff testing positive, while the remainder was due to other coronavirus-related reasons, such as workers having to isolate after being identified as a contact of a positive case.
The figures include the number of days taken by all staff at the jail, including prison officers.
Nine staff were drafted in from other prisons across the country, including Barlinnie, Glenochil and Low Moss, to work at HMPG from other prisons over the same period.
And around 40 prisoners at HMP Grampian have also been in isolation as a result of the pandemic.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said the organisation has measures in place to cope, such as additional testing for workers.
“Contingency plans are in place to deal with situations like this,” she said.
“Plans include issuing PPE and guidance for use, as well as self-isolation as a precaution, and testing is also available.”
However, north-east Conservative MSP and shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said high levels of absence has led to “even greater” pressure on prison staff.
“There is a huge responsibility and pressure placed on prison officers which has been even greater during this pandemic,” he said.
“This seems to have gone unnoticed by the SNP Government.
“These figures show the worrying extent of the impact Covid has had on staff at HMP Grampian which has the possibility to lead to longer shifts to cover other officers who are, perfectly correctly, self-isolating.
“It highlights the high-risk nature of a job where prisoners constantly have to be supervised in a close environment.
“The SPS has contingency plans in place to deal with situations like this but it’s important the Scottish Government realises the Covid dangers posed to these hardworking members of staff and ensures all appropriate resources are available to help.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The continued professionalism and dedication of prison staff during this extraordinarily challenging time remains a cornerstone of Scotland’s justice system – and the main reason why our prisons remain safe and secure and infection rates are low.
“That is why we approved a temporary reward payment scheme consistent with prison officers in England and Wales, which recognised the unique pressures and operational challenges facing prisons in response to the pandemic.
“Scottish Prison Service (SPS) staffing absence rates are being robustly monitored and a number of contingency plans have been put in place to help alleviate the impact of absences.
“We have been assured by the SPS and the Prison Officers’ Association for Scotland throughout the pandemic that staff in all parts of the prison estate have the necessary protection equipment to perform their duties in line with guidance.
“SPS is taking all steps necessary to minimise the risk of infection across prisons, with clear personal protection equipment guidance provided to all staff in line with the latest health protection advice.
“In addition, action has been taken so physical distancing can be adhered to in prisons, including enhanced controls and additional hygiene measures to regulate interactions and contact between people.”