517 prisoners contract COVID-19 in jails

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — A total of 517 prisoners in 10 different have been infected with the coronavirus, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed in his ninth report to Congress on his administration’s response to the pandemic.

“The PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) who have been found positive are currently being treated in various isolation facilities established by the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology),” Duterte said.

Aside from the confirmed cases, Duterte also mentioned that the BJMP has also identified 703 suspected COVID-19 cases and 86 probable cases of the viral disease.

He added that the BJMP has intensified contact tracing in jails that have confirmed COVID-19 cases. He did not say which jails have recorded COVID-19 cases.

He also said that in Cebu City jail facilities, the BJMP has gathered swab samples of prisoners and personnel, established isolation centers and intensified contact tracing. It is unclear whether the same measures have been implemented elsewhere.

Various jail facilities across the country have been reporting cases of COVID-19 amid calls to decongest prisons in an effort to curb the spread of the disease inside the cells.

READ: COVID-19 cases in Cebu breach 1,000 as Mandaue City Jail reports 60 more cases

Twenty-two prisoners have asked the Supreme Court last month for temporary freedom, citing risks to their health as the government’s measures against COVID-19 are supposedly inadequate in jails.

The government has made moves to decongest prisons in light of the pandemic, easing rules on the grant of parole and executive clemency.

So far, Duterte said 144 prisoners have been granted parole and 653 more have pending applications for parole or executive clemency.

CNN Philippines' Triciah Terada contributed to this report.