Davao Oriental orders for mandatory COVID-19 testing on penal and other enclosed facilities

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 9 June) – The provincial government of Davao Oriental has ordered for the mandatory testing of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in penal institutions and for the “risk-based testing” of all individuals confined in enclosed setting facilities in the province as part of its fight against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Davao Oriental Provincial Capitol in Mati. Photo courtesy of Google Street View

Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, in his Executive Order No. 27 issued Monday prescribed safety protocols and guidelines for penal institutions, reformation centers, and orphanages in the province.

“[T]here is a need to issue pertinent guidelines and impose stricter measures to arrest the spread of COVID-19 specifically on areas with higher risk of transmission such as but not limited to penal institutions, reformation centers, and orphanages here in the province as also provided in previous issuance on the risk-based testing policy of the province,” the governor said in his order.

Section 1 of the EO mandates the conduct of risk-based testing “for all individuals in enclosed settings of the province.”

“Following previous issuances on risk-based testing, five percent of the total population of an enclosed setting (facility) shall be tested,” the order said.

The order dictates that this measure must give priority to those who belong to the vulnerable sector with due consideration to their age, comorbidities, and presence of symptoms.

On May 6, Dayanghirang issued Executive Order No. 20, which institutionalized the conduct of risk-based testing for COVID-19 across all vulnerable groups and at risk population in the province.

The testing was primarily intended to test only COVID-19 suspects, individuals of 60 years old and above who had travel/exposure history (to COVID-19 areas), high risk pregnant women, and those with comorbidities; skeleton workforce employees, healthcare frontliners; and those who have availed of the province’s Oplan Sundo program.

EO27 states the mandatory COVID-19 testing for PDLs “prior to being committed to penal institutions, and likewise, prior to being released from the facility.

“Following the issuance of a commitment order by the proper court for the commitment of a PDL into the jail, the PDL must undergo a mandatory COVID-19 testing to be conducted by the City/Municipal Health Department, in addition to the medical examination requirement,” Section 3 of the EO said.

Should the PDL yield a positive result for COVID-19, he/she will be placed in the designated quarantine facility inside the jail for isolation and treatment whether asymptomatic or symptomatic, also provided that the isolation facility is compliant with the standards required by the Department of Health (DOH). The PDL will only be brought to a hospital for admission upon assessment and recommendation of a medical doctor, and can only be permitted to be committed to a detention cell in jails once he is already cleared with a negative result from COVID-19 by the City or Municipal Health Office.

Meanwhile, those PDLs subject for release will also undergo testing, and they would be placed in the designated Barangay Isolation Unit of the barangay he/she resides if ever they are found positive of the virus. He/she will be released only when the test results are negative of COVID-19 with prior notice to the Punong Barangay (barangay captain).

Wardens, center managers, and other facility personnel are directed to implement the prescribed minimum health standards in enclosed areas including the wearing of face masks, proper hand washing, and frequent disinfection of the facilities, particularly on its frequently touched surfaces and common areas. (Warren Elijah E. Valdez / MindaNews)