Nine inmates and nine jail personnel of the Quezon City Jail tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) bared today.

Bureau spokesperson Major Xavier Solda said those infected have already been brought to the newly established isolation center at Payatas in Quezon City and are currently undergoing treatment.

The facility which has become operational during the Holy Week has four tents and can accommodate 48 inmates with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

Contact tracing has already started while all 40 jail staff and about 21 prisoners have been tested to ascertain if they were infected as well.

The BJMP also revealed that an inmate in the Quezon City jail died of a suspected COVID-19 infection on March 25.

Meanwhile, a group of human rights lawyers has appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta to consider the release of qualified prisoners as crowded jails might be threatened with COVID-19.

Senator Leila de Lima and other human rights groups have also joined this request to release the elderly, ailing and vulnerable inmates as they are prone to infection in a congested facility where social distancing is not possible.

A group of prisoners also appealed to the High Court for a “fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with the overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care.”

Solda pointed out that these appeals have to be studied first to ensure that the decision is within legal bounds. (Jojo Mangahis)