Davao Penal Colony inmate who died was not tested for COVID-19
DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — A health official in Davao del Sur said the 47-year-old inmate at the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) prison who died of pneumonia on April 22 was not considered a COVID-19 case. So health authorities found no need to do contact tracing after her death.
Dr. Jonna Masongsong, provincial health officer of Davao del Sur, said in a virtual press conference here that the patient, who was already “immunocompromised” because of her breast cancer, died of pneumonia and respiratory failure.
She was not considered a COVID-19 case. So no swab was taken from her, Masongsong said.
Without a swab being taken, authorities could not tell whether she was positive of the coronavirus. So there was no bases to conduct contract tracing, Masongsong said.
A copy of the patient’s death certificate obtained by the Inquirer showed that the “immuno-compromised” patient died of pneumonia and respiratory failure at the Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC), a COVID-19 facility in Tagum City.
Masongsong said, however, that all deaths during the pandemic, whether these were COVID-19 cases or not, would have to be subjected to protocol and should be buried within 12 hours.
But for some reason, the body of the inmate was brought from the Dapecol infirmary in Panabo City all the way to Hagonoy town in Davao del Sur on April 23, where it was embalmed and given a three-night vigil by her family before burial.
When asked why the body was allowed to be transported to Davao del Sur despite the lockdown, Masongsong said it was a question that only the Hagonoy mayor could answer.
In an earlier interview, Hagonoy Mayor Franco Calida said he was the one who ordered the body to be brought home to the family.
“I offered help because they cannot even buy a coffin,” Calida said. “There was no available funeral car to bring the dead here because of the lockdown. So I ordered the driver to use our rescue vehicle to bring it.”
The arrival of the body aboard the town’s emergency vehicle on April 23 alarmed residents, and the start of the vigil in the evening of April 24 caught the attention of village officials because of its failure to observe physical distancing.
Calida said that the inmate died of cancer and that he would not allow the body to be brought here if it were a COVID-19 case.
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