South Korea rolls out mass Covid-19 testing for 70,000 prisoners and staff

Medical workers prepare to conduct Covid-19 tests of all inmates at Dongbu Detention Centre in Seoul, on Jan 5, 2021.
Medical workers prepare to conduct Covid-19 tests of all inmates at Dongbu Detention Centre in Seoul, on Jan 5, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea rolled out mass testing for 52 prisons in the country after a massive coronavirus outbreak at a prison, and may extend flight suspensions from Britain in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 cases, the health minister said on Wednesday (Jan 6).

Over half of the total 2,292 inmates and personnel in a prison in south-eastern Seoul tested positive after a first cluster infection was reported within the prison last month, Mr Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, told a briefing.

The Justice Ministry is separating the confirmed inmates by transferring them to a designated hospital, said Mr Yoon.

The authorities will complete the mass testing of some 70,000 prison inmates and staff nationwide as the number of confirmed cases linked to prisons throughout the country surged to 1,191.

The health authorities will also decide whether to extend suspensions of flights from Britain after at least 12 cases of a new strain of the coronavirus were found, said Mr Yoon.

The country had already extended a ban on direct flights from Britain until Thursday, and required any passengers arriving from that country or South Africa to undergo testing before departure.

The country reported 840 new cases as at midnight on Tuesday, a slight uptick from 715 a day before, bringing the national tally to 65,818 infections with 1,027 deaths.

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus in South Korea passed 1,000 on Tuesday.