Ismail Sabri: New SOPs for court hearing, new prisoners isolated after Covid-19 spike

Penang Health Dept personnel are seen holding bags believed to be Covid-19 swab specimens after six inmates tested positive for Covid-19 at the Penang Prison, October 8, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Health Dept personnel are seen holding bags believed to be Covid-19 swab specimens after six inmates tested positive for Covid-19 at the Penang Prison, October 8, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — In light of rising Covid-19 cases in Malaysia’s prison system, Putrajaya said today that the Prison Department has come up with new standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb the spread of infection.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in his press briefing that prisoners who need to attend court for remand hearings may now do so via video conferencing.

He also said new prisoners will be subjected to swab tests before entering, isolated for 14 days, before a second swab test on the 13th day before they are put into the prison population.

“Screenings will now be done on any new prisoner before they enter prison or if they are waiting for their remand hearing in Court. While awaiting their results they will be separated from the rest of the prison population,” he said.

“If the result is positive, then we sent them to hospital but if it’s negative, we then place these prisoners in a separate cell for 14 days before we do another swab test on the 13th day and then see what the results are from the second test.

“If the second test is negative, they will be sent to the prison block but they will be separated from general population for another five days. These are strict SOPs from the prisons department to make sure no one from outside infects the prisoners inside and vice versa,” Ismail added.

A total of 1,126 active cases of Covid-19 involving prison inmates and staff nationwide have been recorded so far.

Prisons Department director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Omar said the Covid-19 transmission among the inmates began when the Tawau Prison in Sabah received a new inmate from Lahad Datu who was tested positive on October 2.

During targeted enhanced movement control order, all prisoners and prison staff will be checked for Covid-19 exposure and family members of the prisoners are banned from visiting.

Besides that, Ismail said for prisoners who have a court date will now be able to have their remand hearings through video conferencing.

“We got permission from the court to do video conferencing for prisoners who have remand hearings and things of that nature,” said Ismail.

“If we have to move prisoners to and from prison for hearings and such it will be dangerous to everyone. Court staff, prison staff and people in the courts can be infected. So to prevent that we decided to use this method to limit movement of prisoners especially from those with a high number of cases,” he added.

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