MANILA - The medical chief at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) on Friday appealed to the national government and the public for supplies of personal protective equipment (PPEs) after some inmates and jail personnel tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The BJMP "needs help" after at least 18 inmates and jail personnel contracted the highly-contagious disease, Dr. John Paul Borlongan, medical service chief of the BJMP, said in an online press conference.
"This time is indeed very challenging to us. We have to admit that we also need help and support from the national government and communities," Borlongan said.
"We need PPEs and other protective equipment to perform our daily functions," he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been training some BJMP personnel in handling and managing infectious diseases as some inmates and jail staff need to be cared for in a quarantine facility outside the Quezon City Jail, BJMP spokesperson Xavier Solda earlier said.
Borlongan urged the public to "work together" during the coronavirus crisis, noting that "prison health is also a public health issue."
"In this battle, everyone is involved, nasa community ka man, nasa ospital ka man o nasa loob ka man ng piitan ng kulungan. Everyone should work together to survive this crisis," the prison doctor said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government will provide BJMP with necessary medical equipment, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.
"We will also provide all the necessary PPEs na kakailanganin ng BJMP sa buong bansa para po sa proteksyon ng ating mga jail officers at jail wardens," he said.
"The Department is committed to full transparency in this regard.
Wala po kaming itatago sa inyo. We want to be transparent and we want the public to know the exact situation," he said.
BJMP has suspended visitation rights since March 11 to avoid possible carriers from entering jail facilities. Personnel have been banned from leaving penal facilities since March 30 after the BJMP implemented a "total lockdown."
The agency is still tracing how some inmates and personnel contracted the disease, Solda said.
As of April 17, 2020, there are 40 inmates in the BJMP's isolation center, while another prisoner had to be transferred to the Lung Center of the Philippines.
Petitions are pending at the Supreme Court seeking temporary release of sick and elderly inmates at risk of contracting the disease in the country's crammed jails and prisons.