Samoa prisoners COVID-positive

(April 4, 2022) COVID-19 vaccination and screening underway in Samoa. PHOTO: Ministry of Health Samoa

Nine prisoners and 22 guards at Samoa’s Tanumalala prison have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been isolated to prevent the virus spreading in the facility.

Samoa’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo confirmed the latest developments at the country’s largest prison on Upolu when contacted by the Samoa Observer. 

“As of this morning nine prisoners; seven males and two females have the virus and are suspected to have contracted it from the prison guards,” said Filipo. “The infected prisoners are isolated in a separate cell and we are trying our best to maximise security and control of isolation as per Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) requirements.

“The good thing is that all prisoners have been fully vaccinated and we have also made a request to Health [Ministry] for booster shots to further protect the inmates from the spread of the virus.” 

As for the 22 prison guards, the Deputy Commissioner said they were given the option to either isolate at the isolation site or to go home if they chose to. 

Asked if the prison guards were not screened before entering the prison, he said most prison guards are tested three times a day. 

“The prison guards have to get tested regularly especially if they come out and then return to Tanumalala constantly… Screening is done daily but eventually it will get there, but it is a good thing that they are all fully vaccinated,” he explained.

The first COVID-19 case at the Tanumalala prison was detected on Monday this week, according to Aupaaau.  “Most of them have mild symptoms… They have the flu and usual symptoms of flu… We are giving the prisoners panadol and water to hydrate and most of all, rest,” he said.

He adds the positive female inmates were placed in a separate cell to isolate from the male prisoners who were infected. At the prison facility less than 50 prisoners are placed together in one cell. 

The Deputy Commissioner said they are trying their best to ensure the prisoners are following M.O.H. requirements in terms of social distancing. “It is difficult to enforce those measures in a prison cell… This is the maximum space available and we are trying our best,” he said.

Asked if the attempt by prisoners to break out last week could have brought in the virus, Auapaau said it is a possibility. 

He also said an investigation team will be filing charges against prisoners at the centre of last week’s attempted breakout.