Cebu City Jail tests for COVID-19 after inmate dies from disease

A building inside the Cebu City Jail <i>Photo: Junrey Nadela / ABS-CBN News</i>
A building inside the Cebu City Jail Photo: Junrey Nadela / ABS-CBN News

Inmates are being tested for the coronavirus at the Cebu City Jail after a male detainee who died on Sunday morning tested positive for COVID-19, Mayor Edgar Labella said in a virtual presser yesterday. 

The 49-year-old inmate succumbed to the disease before he received his test results on Sunday afternoon. The detainee complained about experiencing difficulty in breathing and was brought to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center on Saturday and died the next day.

Authorities have yet to confirm if the victim had any pre-existing illnesses.

Labella said he ordered all detainees to be tested immediately after the inmate’s death, and authorities are looking for people who have come in contact with him. At least 199 detainees have already been tested on Sunday with at least one person testing positive. The inmate has been isolated and remains asymptomatic.

The mayor added that a new building inside the facility will serve as an isolation unit to house COVID-19 cases.

“We will be using the newly constructed building at the city jail compound as an isolation facility. Inmates who tested positive of COVID-19 will be brought there,” he said.

Visitors have also been barred from the city jail indefinitely as authorities investigate how the inmate was infected by the virus.

Read: No Social Distancing: 23 prisoners seek temporary liberty to avoid COVID-19 in crowded cells

The country’s Supreme Court said last week and said that it is still studying pleas to release inmates after a group of political prisoners, most of whom were elderly and sick, petitioned for their temporary release over fears of contracting COVID-19 due to the country’s crowded jails.

The Cebu City Jail faces the same congestion problems, with a facility that is designed to accommodate 1,900 detainees, but to date houses at least 6,000 prisoners, Cebu Daily News reports.

To date, the entire province of Cebu has 134 recorded cases among whom six have died, while 6,459 have been sickened by the virus nationwide.

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