Ethiopia to Release 4,110 Prisoners Early to Reduce COVID-19 Risk

ADDIS ABABA – Federal Attorney General has sanctioned the early release of over 4,000 inmates from federal prisons as part of government measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The decision to release the prisoners was made during a meeting between COVID-19 National Ministerial Committee and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last Friday.

It says, apart from mandatory COVID-19 test for new prisoners, convicts with minor offenses and release dates that are near will be released to avoid overcrowding.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Adanech Abebe told reporters about 4, 110 inmates will be discharged from various correctional facilities.

Foreigners are among those who will be released, said Adanech. “They will immediately be deported to their country,” she added.

Officials have already halted personal and legal visits to prisoners in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into prisons.

Ethiopia has 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far but authorities fear a rise in numbers over the coming days.

They were confirmed after the Ethiopian public health institute tested 576 coronavirus cases.

– Testing continues –

Currently, there are only 9 suspected cases in quarantine expecting their test results, Dr. Ebba Abate, General Director of the Institute, during his regular press briefing on Wednesday.

Ethiopia’s focus is now much on testing suspected cases and enforcing a 14-day mandatory quarantine period for all travelers coming into the country via airports, after shutting down its land borders earlier this week.

Since Monday, Dr. Ebba said the number of isolated travelers has reached 519. They are now in mandatory self-isolation in two designated hotels – Ghion and Skylight.

They are covering the cost on their own, officials said.

Officials said 10 more hotels have also been selected to give service for foreign travelers to serve as quarantine.

The decision was among a host of measures announced by the government to curb the coronavirus outbreak, including closing all schools and banning public gatherings and sports events for 15 days.

As part of the efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, 2 million masks were distributed across the country, Dr. Ebba said.

He said such medical equipments are not either available in the market adequately or effective enough to prevent the virus.

“Citizens should focus more on social distancing although we are not seeing many people carrying out that responsibility and keep their physical distance,” said Dr. Ebba.

By Mhret G/Kristos

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