SINGAPORE: About 5,000 inmates, staff and partners at Changi Prison will be tested for COVID-19 over the next few days after a cook working there was confirmed to have the infection.
All inmates' face-to-face visits and tele-visits will also be replaced by phone calls with effect from May 17 until further notice, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said on Saturday (May 15).
The cook who is a confirmed case is a contract staff working in the prison kitchen located at Institution A5 in Cluster A of Changi Prison, said SPS. He is employed by SATS Food Services.
The man, known as Case 63160, was reported as an unlinked community case by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday. He is fully vaccinated.
The 39-year-old last reported to work on Wednesday. He felt unwell after work, developing a fever and runny nose, and sought medical treatment at a general practitioner clinic where he received a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19. His test result came back positive the next day.
SPS said it immediately ceased kitchen operations at Institution A5 and started contact tracing among staff and inmates upon confirmation of his infection.
All close contacts of the man have been isolated or placed in quarantine pending issuance of a quarantine order, said the service.
Affected inmates will serve their quarantine orders in prison, isolated from the rest of the inmate population. Staff, vendors and volunteers will serve theirs at MOH's designated quarantine facility.
TESTING FOR CLUSTER A
As a precautionary measure, activities including family visits, counselling sessions and non-critical hospital appointments have been halted in Institution A5 where the cook worked, said SPS.
All affected areas have also been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
PCR testing has started for all inmates, staff, vendors and volunteers who have been to Institution A5 from Monday to Wednesday. About 1,050 inmates, staff and partners will be tested, said SPS.
The Changi Prison complex comprises two clusters, Cluster A and Cluster B, each of which contains five institutions. Cluster A comprises Institutions A1, A2, A3, A4 and A5.
SPS said it will take a "highly precautionary measure" to test all inmates, staff and partners from Cluster A while the test results for those placed on quarantine order are pending.
"This is to ensure that the virus does not spread undetected within prisons, and that any asymptomatic cases are promptly identified and isolated," said the service.
About 5,000 people will be progressively tested over the next few days.
Inmate activities including rehabilitation programmes will be suspended to facilitate the testing, said SPS.
NO FACE-TO-FACE OR TELE-VISITS
In view of the tighter measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 community transmission, there will be no face-to-face visits and tele-visits for all inmates from May 17 until further notice. These will be replaced with phone calls, said SPS.
The measures are implemented from May 17 as face-to-face visits and tele-visits do not take place on Sundays, said the service.
Families who have already booked their visits will have them automatically converted to phone calls. Inmates can also continue to communicate with their families through e-letters.
SPS has also suspended all rehabilitation programmes conducted by vendors and volunteers during this period.
"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," said the service.
SPS said it has also increased the duration of cohort segregation for newly admitted inmates from 14 to 21 days, since May 8.
Newly admitted inmates will undergo PCR tests upon admission, as well as on the 14th and 20th day of segregation, it said.
They are allowed to join the general inmate population after testing negative at the end of the cohort segregation period.