Hundreds test positive for coronavirus in Morocco prison

Hundreds test positive for coronavirus in Morocco prison
Morocco's prison authorities confirmed 270 cases of the virus among detainees and staff in Ouarzazate, on top of cases in at least three other facilities in the country.
2 min read
25 April, 2020
Morocco's government has been criticised for not taking urgent action on prisoners with Covid-19 [Getty]
Morocco's prison authorities on Friday confirmed a worrying spread of the novel coronavirus inside several of its detention facilities, the worst outbreak occurring among prisoners and staff in Ouarzazate, where at least 270 tested positive.

The General Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation said that 207 prisoners and 62 staff in the facility in southern Morocco had tested positive for the virus, while another 55 inmates were waiting for the results of their tests. 

Authorities had decided to test all the prison's inmates and staff on Wednesday after several people had tested positive.

Meanwhile two staff members at Salé prison on the outskirts of the capital Rabat had tested positive for the virus, as well as single cases in facilities in Oujda and Tetouan, the Delegation confirmed on Friday.

The delegation added that Ouarzazate prison has been provided with mobile units in order to treat and isolate infected inmates, while staff have been provided with protective clothing.

Across Morocco's prisons, restrictions have tightened in order to prevent the spread of the virus, with visitors reduced to one every 15 days.
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Since the first case of Covid-19 in the country, human rights groups have called for the reduction of prisoner numbers. Overcrowding and lack of hygiene inside the facilities mean the virus could spread extremely fast.

Earlier this month, Morocco's King Mohammed pardoned 5,654 prisoners deemed the most vulnerable to the virus. Those released were selected using a criteria of age, health conditions, time spent in prison and good behaviour, the justice ministry said.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights criticised the government for not heeding its warning about prison overcrowding, accusing it of "continued to procrastinate and procrastinate until disaster struck," in a statement released on Wednesday.

The Association said it held the government and prisons delegation "fully responsible" for all consequences of the pandemic on prisoners' and prison staff's health.

It also called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, especially those belonging to the Berber-led Rif movement who experienced a mass government crackdown in 2016.

Morocco has registered 3,758 cases of the new coronavirus and 158 deaths.

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