21 inmates in Koronadal City contract COVID-19; jail visitation suspended

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 10 February) – At least 21 detainees of the city police station here have tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), prompting the suspension of visiting privileges for inmates to contain the spread of the virus, a police official said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Joefel Siason, city police chief, said no visitors will be allowed to the detention facility for 21 days, based on the recommendations of the provincial and city health offices to avoid spreading the highly-contagious and deadly disease.

No vehicles move around the rotunda in Koronadal City on Sunday, 19 April 2020. Commonly called the “round ball,” the rotunda is a major landmark in a city that is implementing a “No Movement Sunday” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

He said the COVID-19 positive inmates have been separated from the other prisoners in a facility within the city police compound that was temporarily transformed to accommodate the individuals afflicted with the disease and the other elderly prisoners and those with health problems.

The city police’s detention center is overcrowded, Siason admitted in a radio interview, noting that it has a capacity to hold only 15 to 20 inmates at any one time.

There are 65 inmates currently jailed at city police’s detention center, he added.

Siason said the officers manning the detention center have been swabbed for the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR) testing, with the results not yet available as of Wednesday morning.

He said the city police office does not subject new detainees to RT-PCR testing due to lack of budget, before they are mixed with the other prisoners if the result is negative.

Siason said a new inmate, the visitors of the inmates or even the police officers guarding them, could have brought the infection inside detention center.

Dr. Edito Vego, acting head of the City Health Office, said they have launched an extensive contact tracing to inform the close contacts of the inmates as well as to possibly determine the origin of the infections.