SINGAPORE - From Tuesday (April 7) to May 4, the Singapore Prison Service will suspend all family visits, including both face-to-face visits and televisits, which allow families of inmates to chat with them via video conferencing.
Inmates will be allowed to keep in touch with their family members through local phone calls in lieu of such visits, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin told Parliament on Monday. Overseas calls will not be allowed, he added.
Inmates can also continue to send letters to their families, including electronic letters, during the period of "circuit breaker" measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Prison programmes involving external parties, such as work programmes and family programmes, will also be suspended during this period.
Essential services such as bakeries, kitchens and laundry services will continue to function.
There have been no cases of Covid-19 in Singapore's prisons thus far, Mr Amrin said.
He added that prisons here have taken additional precautionary measures to protect inmates as well as prison officers and staff from the virus.
All newly admitted inmates are housed separately from the general population and are monitored for 14 days, including through temperature screenings twice a day.
Since March 23, inmates who fulfil the Ministry of Health's case definition for Covid-19, or who have chest X-ray results that suggest respiratory infection, have been tested for Covid-19.
"Front-line prison officers are issued personal protective equipment, which includes disposable masks and gloves for use and interaction with all new admissions, and any suspected case of Covid-19 in the inmate population," said Mr Amrin.
"Prisons have also implemented compulsory temperature screening for all staff and visitors at all access points into prisons facilities."
Mr Amrin was responding to a supplementary question from Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC).
Mr Ng had also asked what plans the Ministry of Home Affairs has to tackle the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and hepatitis C in prisons and whether the ministry could ensure all inmates are vaccinated for hepatitis B.
In response, Mr Amrin said there have been no known instances of inmates contracting HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C while in Singapore's prisons.
He also said prisons take reference from the Health Ministry's National Adult Immunisation Schedule on vaccination, under which vaccinations for hepatitis B are not mandatory.
Mr Amrin said officers and medical personnel conduct regular health talks for inmates to promote healthy lifestyles. This includes education on personal hygiene and not engaging in risky behaviour.
"MHA will continue to regularly review the healthcare approach in our prisons through its Medical Advisory Panel," he said.