Malaysian drug trafficker on death row tested negative on ART prior to court appearance: SPS
Several inmates and staff from the prison institution where Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran Dharmalingam is housed have tested positive for COVID-19.
SINGAPORE: Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, whose execution was stayed after he contracted COVID-19, had tested negative in an antigen rapid test (ART) the day before his court appearance on Tuesday (Nov 9).
Nagaenthran, who has been on death row for 11 years and was due to be executed on Wednesday, was ushered in briefly into the dock for a last-bid attempt against his death sentence on Tuesday.
However, he was later taken away, and a judge informed the court that Nagaenthran had tested positive for COVID-19.
Nagaenthran is “well and asymptomatic” and did not report any illness prior to his court hearing, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) said in a statement late on Tuesday night.
Nagaenthran was not vaccinated against COVID-19, as he had opted not to receive the jab, SPS added.
Several inmates and staff from Institution A1, where Nagaenthran is housed, have tested positive for COVID-19, SPS said. Affected housing units have been locked down to prevent the spread of virus, it added.
"Nagaenthran had only transient contact with two staff who had tested positive," said SPS.
Nagaenthran had undergone both an ART and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on Monday, said SPS.
His ART came back negative on the same day, and he was brought to court at noon on Tuesday for a last-bid attempt against his death sentence.
A spokesman for the Supreme Court said Nagaenthran was in the dock only “for a few minutes before he was ushered out” and had kept his mask on during this period
“In addition, there are glass panels surrounding the accused dock which separate him from the rest of the public present in court,” the spokesman added.
SPS said in its statement that it immediately informed the court upon receipt of Nagaenthran’s PCR test result on Tuesday afternoon, and he was subsequently isolated.
"In view of the situation, the Court of Appeal granted a stay of the judicial execution with immediate effect until all pending proceedings are concluded. Nagaenthran will receive medical attention and proceedings will resume on a date to be fixed, after Nagaenthran has recovered," said SPS.
Nagaenthran's family has been informed, and SPS will continue to provide the family with the necessary support, it said.
Ninety-seven per cent of eligible inmates have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday, and 90 per cent have completed both doses, the service said. Among staff members, 99.5 per cent have completed both doses.
“Given the number of cases in the community during this phase of the pandemic, more cases of infection are likely to arise in the prisons as well, and SPS has taken steps to ensure that the situation remains under control,” it said.
“SPS will continue with our safe management measures to safeguard the health and safety of our inmates, staff, visitors, and partners.
“Staff and partners entering prison facilities must undergo ART twice weekly, while external personnel entering prisons on an ad-hoc basis are required to undergo an ART prior to each entry into prisons.”