DOH issues guidelines amid coronavirus infections in prisons, jails


Posted at Apr 29 2020 10:45 PM

DOH issues guidelines amid coronavirus infections in prisons, jails 1
Inmates sleep at the crowded courtyard of the Quezon City Jail. The United Nations recently sounded the alarm on packed detention centers being vulnerable to the new coronavirus because of challenges in physical distancing and self- isolation, and urged governments to to something about the situation. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News/file photo

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) has released guidelines to stem COVID-19 infections in prisons and jails in the country, an official said Wednesday.

Under the DOH Administrative Order 2020-0015, correctional facilities must isolate suspected, probable, and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“Dapat po natin silang mahiwalay at mabigyang lunas,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing.

(We should separate and give them treatment.)

Due to threat of transmission in confined facilities, those who may have come in contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases should be traced and quarantined.

Prison and jail employees must also be provided with protective gear against the highly infectious disease, Vergeire said.

Persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) are among those identified by DOH as most susceptible to COVID-19.

In prisons and other detention facilities, contact intensity is considered high because individuals are in prolonged close contact and may not be able to practice physical distancing at all times.

Vergeire said they are waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on the release of low-risk and vulnerable inmates.

This, after 2 female inmates from the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) died from COVID-19.

The first inmate, 72, died on April 27. She was earlier reported to be the first COVID-19 case at the CIW and was hospitalized on April 13 at the Sta. Ana Hospital after experiencing symptoms for pneumonia.

The second inmate died on April 21 at the East Avenue Medical Center due to sepsis, systemic lupus, and pneumonia but her test results only came out on Monday indicating she was also positive for the coronavirus.

Forty-seven other inmates, also from the CIW, are under observation at the NBP’s quarantine facility in Muntinlupa City.

As of April 27, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which oversees detention of inmates undergoing trial and awaiting sentencing, reported 195 inmates and 34 staff had tested positive for the virus.

Of the 195 inmates, 146 are from the Cebu City Jail male dorm, 39 from the Cebu City female dorm and 1 from the Mandaue City Jail male dorm. Nine other inmates with COVID-19 are in the Quezon City Jail male dorm.

Various human rights groups have written to the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court to ask for the release of sick and elderly inmates as they face the threat of the fast-spreading disease in the country's crammed prisons and detention facilities.

The SC has already urged trial court judges to use existing measures to decongest jails while the DOJ’s Board of Pardons and Parole expanded the scope and relaxed the requirements for grant of parole and application for executive clemency.