The decision comes after almost half of Ouarzazate prison officials tested positive for the virus.
Rabat – The entirety of Ouarzazate’s prison population will be subject to COVID-19 testing in an effort to keep pace with preventative measures to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement released on April 20 by the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation (DGAPR).
The decision comes after almost half of Ouarazezate’s prison officials tested positive for the virus. The testing of the prison’s civil servants was carried out in two groups. In group one, 36 out 61 civil servants tested positive.
In group two, 24 out of 65 tested positive. In addition, six out of 17 detainees tested have already confirmed infections.
Infected staff and prisoners will be required to follow treatment as advised by health authorities. Uninfected staff will be placed under quarantine and required to adhere to strict precautionary measures.
The statement released by the DGAPR also notes concern for the potential psychological impact that COVID-19 may have on detainees. Online services are being enabled to support prisoners suffering from psychological stress during this time.
Inmates and prison officials at Ksar El Kebir and Loudaya prisons have also tested positive for COVID-19.
Around the world, prisons are being regarded as “petri dishes,” or hot spots, where the virus can easily spread due to overcrowding and the challenge of social distancing.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged governments to “not forget those housed behind bars” and said, “It is vital that governments should address the situation of detained people in their crisis planning to protect detainees, staff, visitors and of course wider society.”
King Mohammed VI has already pardoned at least 5,654 prisoners (out of approximately 85,767) since April 5 due to the extreme vulnerability that prison populations face. The release of these prisoners was based on their length of detention, age, health, and conduct.
As part of the state of emergency announced on March 19, Morocco has suspended detainees’ right to receive visitors. Correctional officers have been required to adopt two-week work shifts, fulfilling the quarantine time suggested by health experts.
Morocco confirmed 3,186 cases of COVID-19 as of 10 a.m. on April 21. Of the confirmed cases, there have been 144 deaths and 359 recoveries.