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DOH reminds jail execs to observe health protocols amid Bilibid COVID-19 deaths

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday reminded jail authorities that health protocols should be strictly observed in jail facilities after 19 inmates in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) died of COVID-19.

In a virtual press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said health screening and contact tracing should be conducted in prison in accordance with Department Memorandum 2020-0217.

“Dapat lahat nai-screen for signs and symptoms especially 'yung senior citizens diyan, ‘yung mga taong may mga comorbidities at immuno-compromised individuals,” she said.

According to Vergeire, an inmate in critical condition should be "extracted" from the facility and brought to a hospital.  

“Kapag nagkakaron ng ganitong kaso sa isang closed institution, nagkakaroon tayo ng contact tracing diyan, nakakapag-extract tayo ng mga taong kailangan dalhin sa ospital,” she said.

Vergeire said the management of COVID-19 situation in closed institutions like prisons is done in cooperation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Asked about how to validate if the NBP inmates really died of COVID-19, Vergeire said that the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice.

On Monday, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson Colonel Gabriel Chaclag said that 343 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 and 19 of them had already died.

It was earlier reported that a man named Jaybee Niño Sebastian died and his remains have already been cremated. The cause of death as listed on the death certificate is acute myocardial infarction as a complication of COVID-19.

It was not, however, clear if he was the same Jaybee Niño Sebastian who testified against detained Senator Leila de Lima at a congressional hearing in 2016 regarding the alleged illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

BuCor chief Gerald Bantag on Sunday confirmed that there have been persons deprived of liberty (PDL) at the NBP who died of COVID-19.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has summoned Bantag to his office on Monday regarding the matter. —KBK, GMA News