Morocco Suspends All Family Visits to Prisons as COVID-19 Threat Grows

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DGAPR headquarters. Photo: DGAPR

Rabat – All prisons in Morocco will be closed to family visits until further notice, the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) announced on Monday alongside an increasing COVID-19 case count.

The announcement follows the record-high number of new infections confirmed on Sunday. Morocco’s Ministry of Health reported 2,234 cases and 32 deaths in 24 hours. 

The decision is effective from Tuesday and will remain in place “until the circumstances and appropriate conditions are met” to safely reinstate family visits.

In late August, as COVID-19 cases surged, DGAPR suspended family visits to a handful of penitentiary institutions in Casablanca-Settat, Rabat-Sale-Kenitra, Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, Marrakech, and Fez. 

Monday’s decision, however, is all-encompassing. The primary goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and protect both inmates and staff. 

DGAPR first began taking measures against the spread of COVID-19 in prisons on March 18, one day before Morocco declared a state of emergency. At the time, the country had only confirmed a few dozen cases of the virus. 

Initial measures included reducing the number of visitors individual detainees can receive and restricting the number of visits to every 15 days, then expanding the mandate to one per month.

Moroccan prisons then began dividing their staff, with two groups adopting alternating two-week shifts. Correctional officers and prison staff who made routine contact with inmates were subject to quarantine before adopting the new schedule to ensure they did not bring COVID-19 with them to work.   

On April 14, the local prison in Ksar El Kbir confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 in a Moroccan prison. Four staff members and one detainee contracted the virus. Outbreaks in other prisons soon followed, some major.

Morocco launched mass COVID-19 testing in prisons on April 25 following 270 infections at the local prison of Ouarzazate. 

By May, the COVID-19 situation in Morocco’s prisons began to calm and DGAPR unveiled an action plan to fight the pandemic. 

The prison authority resumed family visits on July 13 and allowed inmates to receive food from their families for Eid Al Adha. 

However, the COVID-19 situation outside of prisons is now DGAPR’s primary concern. With COVID-19 cases on a sharp incline, Morocco’s prisons are shutting their doors to reduce the threat of transmission.

Source: moroccoworldnews.com