COVID spreading in jails

In the four months since Ethiopia recorded its first case of COVID-19, Dambal Kassim, the head nurse at a coronavirus treatment center in the Ethiopian town of Ziway, had very little to do. But in the aftermath of widespread unrest following the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular singer who fought for Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group, things have become much busier. The unrest resulted in thousands of incarcerations and at least 178 deaths.

Dambal, other health workers in the region and local officials say some detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus. Authorities are now testing inmates amid concerns the virus is spreading fast.

“In the three months since COVID-19 began, we only had two cases of coronavirus,” Dambal said. “But in the last two weeks, we’ve recorded 23 cases. … In prisons, there are sometimes 150 people in one room following the unrest that resulted in many arrests. That is why people are being infected in jail.”

Rights workers say Ethiopian authorities have detained scores of opposition members and journalists for prolonged periods without charges since Hachalu’s death on June 28. The result is overcrowded jails and makeshift detention centers located inside schools and warehouses (source: VoA)