5,000 Changi Prison inmates & personnel to be tested after prison kitchen chef tests positive for Covid-19

He is an unlinked community case announced on May 14.

Jane Zhang | May 15, 2021, 11:17 AM

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One of the four unlinked Covid-19 cases announced in Singapore on Friday (May 14) is a 39-year-old China national who works as a chef with SATS Food Services at Changi Prison.

In a press release on Saturday (May 15), Singapore Prison Service (SPS) announced that about 1,050 inmates, staff, and partners will be tested for Covid-19 from May 10 to May 12, and about 5,000 will be tested progressively over the next few days.

Developed symptoms after work on May 12 & sought treatment

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and SPS, the man last reported to work on May 12.

He developed a fever and runny nose that day after work, and sought medical treatment at a General Practitioner (GP) clinic, where a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test was conducted.

The test came back positive for Covid-19 infection the next day. The man's serology test result is pending.

He is fully-vaccinated — he received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Mar. 23 and the second on Apr. 10.

All staff & inmates who were close contacts have isolated

The man works in the prison kitchen located at Institution A5 in Cluster A of Changi Prison Complex (CPC).

After finding out that the chef tested positive for Covid-19 on May 13, SPS immediately ceased kitchen operations at Institution A5 and began contact tracing to identify staff and inmates who came into close contact with him. All close contacts have been either isolated or placed on quarantine while waiting to be issued a Quarantine Order (QO).

Inmates will serve their QO in prison, isolated from the rest of the inmate population, while affected staff, vendors, and volunteers will serve their QO at MOH’s designated quarantine facility.

All affected areas have since been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and as a precautionary measure, activities in Institution A5 have also been halted.

Roughly 5,000 inmates, staff & partners to be tested over next few days

SPS has begun conducting PCR tests all inmates, staff, vendors, and volunteers who have been to Institution A5 between May 10 and May 12. About 1,050 inmates, staff, and partners will be tested.

Pending the outcome of the test results of the close contacts who have been placed on Quarantine Order, SPS said that it will take a highly precautionary measure to test all roughly 5,000 inmates, staff, and partners from Cluster A progressively, over the next few days.

"This is to ensure that the virus does not spread undetected within prisons, and that any asymptomatic cases are promptly identified and isolated," the press release said.

Inmate activities including rehabilitation programmes will be suspended to facilitate the testing. Partners who are affected by this temporary suspension of activities will be notified.

Stopping face-to-face visits & tele-visits

SPS also announced that in like of MOH's latest announcements on May 14 about the tightening of measures in the community to reduce risk of transmission, it will be ceasing face-to-face visits and tele-visits — which are when the family members of an inmate go down to one of SPS' centres to talk to their loved one on a television via tele-conferencing.

Instead, starting May 17 until further notice, these visits will be replaced with phone calls. Families who have already booked their visits will have their visits automatically converted to phone calls.

In addition to phone calls, inmates will be able to communicate with their families through e-letters.

SPS said that it has also suspended all rehabilitation programmes conducted by vendors and volunteers during this period as preventive steps for the safety of the inmates and their families, staff and partners.

These complement existing measures that have been in place since the onset of Covid-19.

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

Newly admitted inmates undergo PCR tests upon admission, as well as on the 14th and 20th days of cohort segregation. They are allowed to join the general inmate population after they test negative at the end of the cohort segregation period.

SPS said that it is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of its inmates and staff, and will continue to review their safety measures in accordance with MOH guidelines.

Top photo via Facebook / Singapore Prison Service.