COVID-19 outbreak in Davao City Jail worsens; total cases at 76

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 Nov) – The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)-Davao Region has reported 28 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the highly congested Davao City Jail in Barangay Ma-a, bringing the total cases to 76 as of Monday since the first cases were reported last November 21.

The Davao City Jaill. Photo courtesy of Google Street View

In a virtual press conference on Monday, Dr. Daniel David, regional health chief of the BJMP-Davao Region, said that of the total cases, eight are jail personnel and 68 are inmates, who were among the 160 swabbed for the infection after being identified as “close contacts” of the first reported cases.

He said the confirmed COVID-19-positive inmates are recovering in the designated 100-bed isolation facility within the jail compound while the jail personnel were transferred to the isolation facility of the Department of Health (DOH) in the region.

David said that the 15 COVID-19-positive inmates with comorbidity are strictly being monitored, with response teams ready to transport them to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for treatment if symptoms develop.

The city jail has a total population of 1,700.

He said virus test of one inmate, who died last November 19 at the SPMC after being diagnosed with pulmonary congestion secondary to end-stage renal failure, and seven other inmates who underwent swab test as one of their requirements for transfer to a rehabilitation center, turned out positive when results came out last November 21.

David added that health authorities are currently investigating to determine who was the index case and how the infection reached the jail facility, despite strict enforcement of quarantine measures, including a requirement of negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result before inmates get admitted to the jail.

He said that after obtaining their RT-PCT results, new inmates will have to undergo another 14-day quarantine period in another facility within the compound before they are transferred to prison cells with other inmates.

“We are still looking for the index. We are trying to determine how the transmission happened. For our personnel, we have strict protocols upon going inside, or before the change of guards, because our personnel will be on quarantine for a minimum of 21 days…they will also be screened, and if symptomatic, the personnel cannot enter the jail. We are very strict on that,” David said.

Following the guidelines of the DOH, he said health authorities don’t need to test all 1,700 inmates, prioritizing only the close contacts, symptomatic inmates, and vulnerable sector.

“The rest of the population, as of now, cannot leave their respective blocks because they are on lockdown, and being monitored inside,” he said.

Aside from the 100-bed isolation facility for confirmed cases, David said the BJMP has a 150-bed quarantine facility for close contacts.

“If there is a surge, and our isolation facility can no longer accommodate, we are coordinating with DOH and we have conducted several inspection for possible area where we can transfer the positive PDL. There is another three-story building inside the Davao City Jail compound that could accommodate 100…. BJMP 11 is prepared for surge capacity,” he said.

JInsp. Edo Lobenia, BJMP 11 spokesperson, said the agency is still on top of the situation amid the COVID-19 outbreak. “BJMP is on top of the situation. We are doing our very best to manage the crisis,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)