I’m quite sure that you already know this health issue. It terrifies most of the public sector knowing everybody is at risk of contracting the infectious virus for it is already a pandemic one. Globally, the corona virus has infected more than a million people and continually rising with a total death reaching almost 60,000. The said virus originated first in Wuhan City, Hubei, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Currently, a vast majority of which being reported now is in the United States of America with 300,000 cases growing at an alarming rate.
In our country, there’s already the Proclamation 922, declaring a state of public health emergency due to the 2019 corona virus disease (Covid-19) threat last March 09, 2020 (Monday). “All government agencies and LGUs are hereby enjoined to render full assistance and cooperation and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate response and measures on time to curtail and eliminate the Covid-19 threat”, President Duterte said in his proclamation.
I know most of us are quite doubtful of the Philippine health care capacity to handle mass cases in handling this kind of infection. Even progressive countries like South Korea, China, and Italy seem overwhelmed by the patient surge in their hospitals. In worst-case scenario, the Philippines will be overpowered by the number of infected Filipinos and the virus spread like wildfire causing mass panic affecting the daily lives of all.
The virus affects all community sectors, but have you pondered what if it reaches jails? It is already public knowledge that most of our jails are overcrowded and overly congested. Imagine that the COVID-19 managed to infect a PDL, it could be catastrophic. Considering the situation, it would be favorable for the virus to infect another person in ten folds compared to outside communities. Jail facilities will be a huge reservoir for the virus spread exponentially and this possibility must not be neglected by the authorities. Just imagine that most PDL will be brought to hospital facilities, needing duty personnel to escort them, the need for isolation, the quarantine facilities inside jail facilities, PDL hysteria over the outbreak, etc. The ripple effect could be devastating to the jail facility, hence all personnel must be ready for the worst-case scenario. Public safety is also at risk if mass jailbreak occurs.
So, what could the BJMP do in this foreseeable crisis? Prevention is better than cure, hence preventive measures are already in place to halt the entry of the virus inside jail facilities. All regions already implemented the suspension of visitation in response to the threat. In Eastern Visayas, all BJMP manned jails implemented the suspension of visiting privileges which took effect last 14 March 2020. Wearing of face mask and provision of alcohol and hand sanitizers for personnel use is already implemented and other health precautions. Formulation of the Operational Plan in managing this kind of disease outbreak and proper coordination to health authorities for possible quarantine and containment measures are in effect. All jails conducted disinfection of jail facilities done on a routine basis because if one gets the virus most will suffer and as a community, everybody should help. Addressing this drastic measure, e-Dalaw had been the option for our PDL to be connected with their significant others.
With the recent surge in the positive cases and Patients Under Investigation (PUI) in the country, the Jail Lockdown protocol was enforced last March 20, 2020, in all jail facilities. Hence, all jail personnel was mandated to implement strict no-in and no-out policy until the lifting of the declaration. This the first in the jail management history to implement such drastic measures against such a health crisis. Yet, this is a needed strategy to protect PDL from being infected. All health precautionary measures are religiously implemented to ensure that no personnel and items become a carrier of the disease.
Despite precautions, the possibility of infection among our PDL and/or personnel to the virus is still imminent. I do hope that our active partners from the government must also look into the jail facilities and help us in case the disease spreads within bars. Likewise, in this time of health crisis, we appeal to the public especially PDL relatives and visitors their utmost understanding and consideration of the situation. Public safety, as well as health concerns, is at risk if any of our clientele gets infected. Health care facilities will be overwhelmed should jail facilities get the virus and law enforcement agencies as well.
Desperate times need desperate measures. In times like this, we should fight one common unseen enemy capable of causing massive jail disturbance, very detrimental to jail security. The current health situation is still at its earliest point, and we must do whatever it takes to prevent the further spread of the disease. The jail lockdown in all jail facilities is essential for we deal with the unseen enemy and we never know the possible carriers. Our PDL needs our protection from this possible health threat, and we personnel must not be the cause of their ailments. The bureau intends to prevent this contagion and we must stop the chain of infection by ensuring our personnel is free from this virus.
With this, we certainly need the full cooperation of our unit personnel and we commend their selfless dedication by staying inside the jail facility until this crisis ends. Several concerns surely will transpire as we go along this strict lockdown procedure, but we must consider our oath to the country and our goal is to protect our clientele, and the public by ensuring a COVID-free jail facility. The bureau is certainly exerting its efforts in finding solutions and remedies to our personnel in the field to lessen their burden and boost their morale.
Given this situation, are we ready to handle this kind of health crisis? It’s difficult to assure the public for it needs a vast special consideration of the bureau’s limited capacity and laws to be considered in providing safekeeping of PDL should the virus infiltrates the jail facility. Nevertheless, the bureau is already doing its job in ensuring the public safety of the general population. We are doing our best not to add more weight to the current health situation. We are your silent heroes behind bars, and we’ll be upholding our mandate especially in this needed time.