At least nine inmates and nine personnel at the Quezon City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) announced today.
Major Xavier Solda, BJMP’s spokesman, told the Philippine Star that the inmates had been transferred to an isolation facility in Payatas, Quezon City last week. Meanwhile, the jail staff have been told to quarantine in their respective homes.
The BJMP said earlier this week that at least 21 detainees have been isolated after they came in contact with an inmate whose death was suspected of having been due to COVID-19, reports Rappler. The BJMP said today that this number includes the nine inmates from Quezon City Jail.
In a presser today, Solda said their team is conducting contact tracing and that they are coordinating with the Philippine Red Cross so they could establish other quarantine facilities, reports The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Early this month, a group of political prisoners petitioned the Supreme Court to ask for their temporary liberty, saying that the country’s crowded jails make it likely for them to be infected with the coronavirus. The group was composed of mostly elderly prisoners who suffer from different ailments, such as hypertension and diabetes. One has leprosy while another is pregnant.
Non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) has already asked the Philippines to release low-level offenders, the elderly, and the ill from the country’s packed prisons, where social distancing is impossible to achieve.
“Failure to act now could result in a serious outbreak in the country’s jails and prisons, threatening the lives of prisoners whose health the authorities have a duty to protect,” says HRW’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson.