Sri Lankan man tested positive for COVID-19 while awaiting repatriation after 4-week sentence for overstaying

Sri Lankan man tested positive for COVID-19 while awaiting repatriation after 4-week sentence for overstaying

File photo of Singapore Prison Service HQ
File photo of Singapore Prison Service's HQ. 

SINGAPORE: A Sri Lankan man who tested positive for COVID-19 while in Singapore Prison Service's (SPS) custody was awaiting repatriation after serving a four-week sentence for overstaying in Singapore, authorities said on Tuesday (Aug 4).

The 26-year-old man was reported as a COVID-19 case in the Ministry of Health's (MOH) daily update on Monday. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, was asymptomatic and not linked to other cases, MOH said.

In response to queries from CNA, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and SPS in a media statement on Tuesday detailed the chain of events from the time of the man's arrival in Singapore to his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

The man, identified by MOH as Case 53086, arrived in Singapore Jan 2 on a short-term visit pass.

On Jun 30, he was arrested by ICA for overstaying or remaining in Singapore without a valid pass.

He was remanded at Changi Prison Complex on Jul 1 and subsequently sentenced on Jul 6 to four weeks’ imprisonment.

As part of SPS' screening of inmates, the man tested negative for COVID-19 for his entry swab on Jul 2 and his exit swab on Jul 22. Upon his admission, he was also placed into mandatory 14-day cohort segregation for all new admissions. 

READ: Crime-fighting during COVID-19: Precautions taken in prisons, police stations and courts

HOSPITALISED FOR DENGUE

On Jul 8, the inmate was admitted to Changi General Hospital for dengue. He was also tested for COVID-19 at the time, and was negative.

He returned to Changi Prison on Jul 13 and "remained in cohort segregation" before a swab test on Jul 22, which was also negative.

At the end of his sentence, Case 53086 was released into ICA’s custody on Jul 27 for repatriation to Sri Lanka.

His temperature was taken three times a day and he was monitored for acute respiratory infection symptoms while in ICA custody, said the statement.

The next day on Jul 28, the man was escorted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for a medical review related to his previous hospitalisation for dengue.

READ: COVID-19 - Travellers who serve stay-home notice outside of facilities after entering Singapore must wear electronic device

NO FLIGHTS AVAILABLE, MAN RETURNS TO SPS CUSTODY TO AWAIT REPATRIATION

As there were no flights available, the man was returned to SPS’ custody on Jul 30 to await repatriation and underwent the mandatory 14-day cohort segregation and swab tests again.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug 2. 

The man had stayed in ICA's lock-up while he was in custody, SPS told CNA.

ICA said that it takes strict precautionary measures in handling people in custody. If anyone displays acute respiratory infection symptoms during custody, they will be referred to ICA’s medical service provider for further assessment, with a view to referring them for COVID-19 testing, said ICA.

Safe distancing measures are also enforced in ICA's lock-up, and individuals who are in custody are required to wear surgical masks. ICA officers who handle them must put on personal protective equipment (PPE).

"The inmate is currently well. He is being housed separately from other inmates and is being closely monitored by medical staff," said SPS and ICA in their statement.

They added that two others who were admitted to Changi Prison on the same day as the Sri Lankan on Jul 30 had been segregated in the same isolation cell as him.

They have tested negative for COVID-19 and are being closely monitored. They will also be swabbed again at the end of the 14-day segregation period before they are allowed to join the general inmate population.

Staff members who were in contact with the Sri Lankan are also well, said SPS and ICA.

In all, one SPS officer, five ICA officers and five auxiliary police officers under ICA who had close contact with the Sri Lankan man have been issued quarantine orders.

"SPS and ICA are assisting MOH with contract tracing. All areas to which Case 53086 had been, have since been thoroughly disinfected," they said.

SPS also said that its staff members are "routinely tested" for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure, and that staff or inmates who have acute respiratory infection are required to undergo swab tests.

All medical staff and SPS officers involved in handling new admissions are required to wear the appropriate PPE.

READ: Three inmates, one nurse at Changi Prison tested positive for COVID-19 between April and May - SPS

NO LINK WITH PREVIOUS PRISON INFECTIONS

SPS and ICA said the latest COVID-19 case in prison is unlinked to five previously reported cases, involving four inmates and a staff nurse from SPS' medical service provider. Authorities have said previously that those five cases were not also linked to one another. 

"The four inmates have since been discharged from the isolation facility after being cleared of COVID-19 infection, and have either joined the general inmate population or been released from custody.

"The healthcare worker has also recovered and is back at work," it said.

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Source: CNA/jt

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