Free meals provided to Penang prison staff on duty

Malaysian Civil Defence Force (APM) vehicle entering the Penang Remand Prison at Jalan Penjara in Penang. ( - ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Prison staff on duty at Penang Remand Prison are getting free meals during the enhanced movement control order (MCO) period at selected blocks, which began on Monday.

Penang Prison director Roslan Mohamed said the meals were bought using the Prison Staff Association allocation.

“The food and drinks are prepared outside the prison area by our prison staff members and supplied to those on duty.

“But their family members are not entitled to the meals,” he said.

There are 318 prison staff members living with their family members in the quarters located opposite the prison while another 220 staff members and their families live on their own.

The enhanced MCO was imposed on the blocks where inmates tested positive for Covid-19.

This resulted in the tightening of standard operating procedures such as the prohibition of physical movement in and out of the prison and conditional entry and exit for staff and wardens.

Visitation by family members, embassy lawyers, NGOs and outsiders to the prison is also not allowed throughout the period.

Roslan said none of the prison staff or their family members tested positive in the first round of swab tests conducted by the state Health Department.

“All prison staff and their family members, as well as the 2,306 prison inmates, are undergoing the second round of swab tests,” he added.

Roslan also said there was no restriction for the heads of the families living at the prison quarters to buy their food supply outside the prison area.

Penang recorded 171 cases from March 13 to Sunday before the prison remand cluster recorded 141 in a single day on Monday.

Meanwhile, several food traders along Jalan Utama have expressed their worries over the spike of Covid-19 cases in the prison.

A check by The Star found that the temporary hawker site, a stone’s throw away from the prison, was almost deserted with only a few traders manning their stalls compared to about 50 previously.

Some traders said they and many patrons were concerned that the virus would spread in the area, resulting in even slower business.

Beverage seller Muhammad Safwan Abdullah, 59, said business had been bad since March.

“The situation has not been helped by the recent spike of cases in Penang. I hope the government won’t impose another lockdown,” he added.

Another trader, Khairul Hani Zamzuri, 29, said they would be the hardest hit if the virus could not be contained.

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