5,000 inmates, staff, vendors and volunteers to be tested for Covid-19 at Changi Prison

The Singapore Prison Service said inmate activities, including rehabilitation programmes, will be suspended to facilitate the testing. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) will be testing about 5,000 inmates, staff, vendors and volunteers over the next few days after a chef working in the prison kitchen at Changi Prison Complex tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday (May 13).

In a statement released on Saturday, SPS said inmate activities, including rehabilitation programmes, will be suspended to facilitate the testing.

It also said that vendors and volunteers who are affected by the temporary suspension of activities will be notified.

SPS said it would cease face-to-face and tele-visits and replace all inmates' visits with phone calls from May 17 until further notice.

The decision comes on the heels of the Ministry of Health's (MOH) announcement on Friday on the tightening of measures in the community to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Families who have already booked their visits will have them automatically converted to phone calls. In addition to phone calls, inmates are still able to communicate with their families through e-letters.

"These are important, preventive steps taken by SPS, for the safety of our inmates and their families, staff and partners, and they complement existing measures that have been in place since the onset of Covid-19. SPS is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our inmates and staff.

"We will continue to review our safety measures in accordance with MOH guidelines," SPS said.

The chef who tested positive last reported to work on Wednesday. He felt unwell after completing his shift that day and saw a doctor that evening. His test came back positive on Thursday.

He had received his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccination on April 10.

SPS ceased kitchen operations at Institution A5 of Changi Prison Complex, where the chef was working, and started contact tracing efforts to identify staff and inmates who had come into close contact with him.

SPS said all close contacts have been isolated or placed on quarantine.

Inmates will serve their quarantine order in prison, isolated from the rest of the inmate population, while affected staff, vendors and volunteers will serve their quarantine order in MOH's designated quarantine facility, SPS added.

Since May 8, SPS has increased the duration of cohort segregation for newly admitted inmates from 14 to 21 days, in view of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the community.

Newly admitted inmates will undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests upon admission, as well as on the 14th and 20th day of cohort segregation.

They will be allowed to join the general inmate population after they test negative at the end of the cohort segregation period.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.