Following instructions for people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives, introduced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, prison visits are temporarily cancelled.

This is to ensure prisons are complying with social distancing rules and to protect staff and prisoners.

In recognition of the importance of continued contact with family and to ensure stability in jails the government has moved quickly to keep prisoners in touch with their family members by other means.

Secure phone handsets will be given to prisoners at 55 jails. This will enable the approved use of 900 locked SIM card handsets, allowing risk-assessed prisoners to speak to a small number of pre-authorised contacts. The phones will not have internet access.

Strict measures will ensure the phones are not misused with calls being time-limited and monitored closely. Additionally, handsets will include measures to prevent non-secure SIM cards being used.

Prisons and Probation Minister, Lucy Frazer QC MP, said: "These are uniquely challenging times and the decision to end prison visits has not been taken lightly. We know these are important to many prisoners and that they will be concerned for the wellbeing of their family members.

"It is therefore right and proportionate that we provide other, controlled ways for them to stay in touch so that they can maintain the close bonds that will ultimately reduce their chances of reoffending when they are released.

"I also want to pay tribute to the thousands of staff working tirelessly to keep our prisons safe."

Visits were suspended after the government took vital steps to limit travel and social interactions in order to limit the spread of the virus.