SINGAPORE: Three inmates at Changi Prison and a staff nurse working there have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday (May 29).
All four cases are unlinked, said the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) in a statement on Saturday morning, in response to queries from the media.
"All three inmates were newly admitted inmates who were still undergoing cohort segregation when they tested positive for the virus following a swab test," said SPS.
SPS also highlighted that the three inmates were in different cohorts and were tested as part of the admission process.
In a later update on Saturday, SPS said that the three inmates were admitted to the prison on different days and that they were not with the general inmate population at any time.
The first inmate tested positive on Apr 21, the second inmate on Apr 22, and the third inmate on May 9.
Following confirmation of their positive results, the three inmates were isolated and put in a separate prison facility, away from the rest of the newly admitted inmates.
Two of the inmates have been discharged from that facility and the third remains "clinically well", said SPS.
The healthcare worker tested positive for COVID-19 on Apr 24, added SPS in its update on Saturday afternoon. The staff nurse, from SPS' medical service provider, has recovered and is back at work.
"Following these cases detected in late April and early May, there have been no new cases of COVID-19 in prisons," said the prison service.
As part of COVID-19 precautionary measures, all newly admitted inmates are kept apart from the general inmate population for 14 days, the prison service added.
CASES ARE NOT LINKED, NOT A CLUSTER: MOH
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Saturday night in its daily COVID-19 update that it has looked into the cases of the inmates (Cases 8650, 11178 and 23195) and the staff nurse (Case 11927).
"We have established that they were not epidemiologically linked to one another, and did not constitute a cluster. The cases had been included earlier in our daily updates on new (COVID-19) cases," the health ministry said.
Speaking in Parliament on Apr 6, in response to a question from Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin said that there had been no cases of COVID-19 in Singapore's prisons at that point.
"Prisons (are) closely monitoring the health and well-being of staff and inmates, and they are regularly reminded on the need to practise good personal hygiene and be socially responsible," he said.
"All newly admitted inmates are housed separately from the general population and monitored for 14 days with their temperatures taken twice daily."
Since Mar 23, inmates who meet MOH's COVID-19 case definitions or have x-ray findings that suggest respiratory infection would be tested for the coronavirus.
Frontline prison officers are also issued personal protective equipment, which includes disposable masks and gloves, when they interact with all new admissions and any suspected case of COVID-19 in the inmate population, Mr Amrin said.
Compulsory temperature screening has also been implemented for all staff and visitors at all access points into prison facilities.
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES POST CIRCUIT BREAKER
Under the "circuit breaker" put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, SPS in its statement also said it had already suspended all family visits and face-to-face programmes for inmates.
When the circuit breaker is lifted on Jun 1, SPS said the same precautionary measures will remain in place and brought back in a "gradual and phased" manner.
This will apply to certain core rehabilitation programmes like academic classes, which may gradually resume with safe distancing measures in place.