MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have started random coronavirus testing in the Quezon City Jail after at least 18 inmates and personnel tested positive for COVID-19, an official said Friday.
Confirmed COVID-19 patients from the Quezon City Jail have been placed in an isolation facility in Payatas even before the random testing began, BJMP spokesperson Xavier Solda said in a press conference.
"This morning nasa Quezon City Jail ang DOH. I believe that (testing) was what exactly they did," he told reporters when asked when the random testing of inmates for COVID-19 began.
"For other jail facilities, hopefully ma-maintain nila 'yung na negative 'yung mga facilities nila. Ang priority kasi natin, kung wala ka naman talagang sintomas at wala kang pinapakita na COVID-19 symptoms, prioritize muna natin mga persons deprived of liberty na may kaso," he said.
(For other jail facilities, hopefully they can keep their facilities negative from COVID-19. We are prioritizing facilities that have symptomatic inmates.)
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged local government units to include inmates who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 in their targeted mass testing programs.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to advise our local government units na ang area ay may jail sila doon na isama na din nila ang mga jails in their jurisdiction sa ginagawa nating mass testing para matulungan natin ang BJMP," DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.
(I'd like to take this opportunity to advise our local government units that have jails in their areas to include jails in the mass testing program in their respective jurisdictions.)
"Kung mayroon pong i-report ang inyong jail warden na person under investigation, isama niyo na po sa inyong mass testing para makatulong," he said, addressing local officials.
(If a jail warden reports that they have a person under investigation, including that person in your mass testing program will be a big help.)
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.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been training several jail officials in handling and managing infectious diseases to ensure that they could respond to the medical needs of inmates who contracted the disease.
Several petitions are pending at the Supreme Court seeking the release of sick and elderly inmates at risk of contracting the contagious disease in the country's overcrowded jail facilities.