MANILA (UPDATE) – Eighteen inmates and a staff at a Mandaluyong prison tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Bureau of Corrections announced in a Facebook post Tuesday.
The 19 who tested positive were exposed to a 72-year-old female inmate of the Correctional Institute for Women who has since been hospitalized at the Sta. Ana Hospital.
The new COVID-19 cases were reported to have mild symptoms while some were asymptomatic, the BuCor said.
"They are now being monitored and given vitamins, medicines and food supplements to strengthen their immune system," it said in a Facebook post.
So far, the following jails have reported COVID-19 cases:
BJMP Quezon City jail – 9 inmates, 9 staff
Cebu City jail – 2 inmates
CIW Mandaluyong – 19 inmates, 1 staff
BuCor said the CIW is implementing contact tracing, isolation of those exposed to confirmed COVID-19 cases, further testing on suspect and probable cases, augmentation of medical personnel and providing more vitamins and food supplements to inmates.
It added that the facility was also improving its partnerships with government hospitals, donors, partners, counterparts and stakeholders in the fight against the spread of the disease.
“The CIW needs more vitamins for PDLs, food supplements that promote the immune system, beds and big tents,” it said.
The Supreme Court on Monday, through the Office of the Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, reminded trial court judges to implement existing jail decongestion measures by releasing detainees who have been detained for a period equal to the minimum of the penalty charged while trial continues and by provisionally dismissing cases in certain situations.
Various groups have urged the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to release low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable to contracting the virus.
A petition is currently pending at the high court while the Justice department is studying the suggestion.
On Monday, Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo urged the SC and the DOJ that should they allow the release of inmates, they should be tested for COVID-19 first and contact tracing should immediately be done.
“If they are and are sent home, they can spread the virus to their families and the community,” she said, adding that those who test positive should immediately be isolated and treated.
Castelo supported the House Committee on Justice’s recommendation to grant temporary freedom to low-risk and vulnerable prisoners.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso said the current condition of congested jails in the country is a “recipe for a catastrophic disaster-in-waiting” putting at risk not just inmates but jail personnel as well.