Ethiopia has announced it would free thousands of inmates from the country’s overcrowded prisons as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Attorney General Adanech Abebe told state media the measure would apply to more than 4,000 prisoners, many of whom are locked up for petty crimes and drug offences or have less than a year remaining on their sentences.
Conditions in Ethiopia’s prisons are harsh and in some cases life-threatening, marred by “gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care, according to the latest annual human rights report on Ethiopia from the US State Department.
As of Tuesday evening, Ethiopia had confirmed 12 cases of COVID-19, after conducting 480 laboratory tests.
Officials say all the cases involve people who travelled from abroad or had direct contact with people who travelled from abroad.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeals for Ethiopians to practice social distancing have fallen on deaf ears, as large crowds continue to gather in Addis Ababa, for religious ceremonies and other events.