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Coronavirus

Morocco presses campaign to vaccinate inmates against COVID-19

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Morocco has vaccinated nearly 4,000 inmates as part of a campaign launched in March to inoculate the incarcerated population against coronavirus, the kingdom’s prison authority said Wednesday.

The aim of the campaign, started several weeks after the national vaccination drive, is to work toward “a collective immunity for 80 percent of prisoners,” said Taoufiq Abtal, the head of health for the prison authority DGAPR.

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“This is a pioneering operation,” he said during a press tour of the El Arjat prison, near the capital Rabat, stressing “good progress” had been made.

Morocco’s 78 prisons hold nearly 85,000 inmates, 45 percent of whom are in pre-trial detention, with the North African kingdom’s prison system suffering a “chronic problem” of overcrowding, according to the DGAPR.

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Prisoners watch from behind their cell window during a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus, at the El-Arjate prison near the capital Rabat, on May 26, 2021. (Fadel Senna/AFP)
Prisoners watch from behind their cell window during a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus, at the El-Arjate prison near the capital Rabat, on May 26, 2021. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

The court of auditors says inmates live in an average surface area of 1.8 square meters (19 square feet), and the non-governmental Moroccan Observatory of Prisons says some jails have an occupancy rate of more than 250 percent.

Since late January, around eight million Moroccans have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly five million have had two doses, according to the latest official figures.

The vaccination campaign in prisons is currently targeting inmates aged over 45, and those with chronic illnesses.

Morocco recently eased restrictions imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus, shortening a night-time curfew, but a long-standing state of emergency over the health crisis has been extended until June 10.

Morocco’s borders will remain closed to 54 countries until at least June 10, according to the civil aviation authority.

The kingdom has recorded over 517,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including 9,131 deaths.

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