As COVID-19 focuses the world’s attention on infectious diseases, we have our eyes on one of the most dangerous places for the spread of such outbreaks: prisons, where densely packed people and (often) limited access to health care make for a risky situation.
Overcrowding, poor ventilation, and infrastructures, deficient health, hygiene, and sanitation conditions favour the spread of infectious diseases – whether the novel coronavirus COVID-19 or tuberculosis (TB) which can rapidly affect a large number of people inside detention facilities. While COVID-19 is caused by a virus and TB by bacteria, both may have devastating effects on vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.
TB, for example, is known to be 100 times more prevalent in detention facilities than in the community. And according to the World Prison Brief database, the Philippines was ranked highest in the world in jail occupancy rate in its latest report. As of 19 March 2020, the congestion rate in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s (BJMP) 467 jails is at 534 percent.
Overcrowding has been a challenge for many years inside Philippines jails. This photo was taken inside the Manila City Jail in early March. Preparedness is very important against infectious diseases as these can potentially spread fast inside the jails and infect not only inmates but jail staff and visiting family members.
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