Hong Kong’s Correctional Services Department (CSD) has emptied a detention centre to transform it into a quarantine facility after seven confirmed Covid-19 cases were detected among inmates.

A Correctional Services Department vehicle leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on April 7, 2021. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In a statement released on Thursday morning, the CSD announced that the Sha Tsui Correctional Institution on Lantau Island will be used as a temporary quarantine facility.

The CSD said seven inmates had been confirmed with Covid-19 since last Tuesday and it had already turned the Cape Collinson Correctional Institution in Chai Wan – a staff field training centre – into an isolation facility for these patients.

According to the CSD, the Sha Tsui detention centre will be emptied and act as another provisional quarantine facility, “in order to tackle possible acute changes in the Covid-19 situation within correctional institutions.”

Meanwhile, all detainees at Sha Tsui have already been transferred to the Tong Fuk Correctional Institution.

Although detainees in Sha Tsui are younger males under training orders and the Tong Fuk Correctional Institution is mainly for the custody of male adult prisoners, Shiu Ka-chun, prisoner rights activist and former pro-democracy lawmaker, told HKFP that he is “not particularly concerned.”

Notice to visitors outside Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre. File Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Shiu said the transfer of inmates was very common and he believed the CSD had enough experience for the task.

The CSD also said it is testing all employees and inmates and will provide sufficient rapid test kits for on-duty staff and inmates in need.

Last Thursday, the CSD announced that the suspension of visits by relatives and friends had been extended to February 23.

Lockdown procedures

In its statement, the CSD said it may ramp up infection control measures “if the situation worsens.”

For the time being, the CSD said it has implemented various measures to stop Covid-19 transmission, including monitoring the body temperatures of all staff and inmates, requiring everyone to wear a mask, regularly disinfecting all areas inside correctional institutions, and adopting “holiday operation mode” to reduce interpersonal contact.

The CSD said it will immediately implement a “cell lockdown operation mode” if “the situation worsens.”

Tai Tam Gap Detention Centre. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

According to Ming Pao, the CSD’s holiday operation procedures refer to suspending inmates from attending workshops and allowing workshop tutors to help with warding and arranging Covid-19 tests.

The lockdown procedures were typically enacted during extreme weather conditions in the past, whereby all inmate activities would be cancelled. Depending on the situation, they would be sent to shower and undergo exercise in batches. Meals would also be distributed to their cells, instead of inmates having meals together at canteens.

As of Wednesday, Hong Kong has reported 30,955 infections and 227 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.