Morocco prisoners make masks for fellow inmates

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Mask-clad inmates produce protective masks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, at the Oukacha prison in Casablanca on May 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Prison wardens, wearing personal protective equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, keeps watch at the Oukacha prison in Casablanca on May 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Morocco prisoners make masks for fellow inmates

  • Police checks are frequent, and those caught risk up to three months in prison and a fine of up to 1,300 dirhams ($130) for violating the rules

RABAT: Prisoners in Morocco are doing their bit in the country’s fight against the spread of coronavirus — by making thousands of face masks for fellow inmates.
“We feel like we are contributing to the collective effort, even if it’s from behind prison walls,” 40-year-old Khalid, wearing a white coat and a face mask, told AFP during an interview in the presence of prison management.
An inmate at Casablanca’s Ain Sebaa prison — the kingdom’s most crowded jail, with some 8,000 inmates — Khalid leaves his cell every day for the sewing workshop, passing through long corridors that reek of disinfectant.
He finishes off the masks while others cut the fabric or pack the protective items into plastic bags for distribution to some 80,000 prisoners across the country.
The North African kingdom has officially declared 7,300 coronavirus infections, including 197 deaths.
It has extended its lockdown until June 10, and anyone going outdoors requires authorization and must wear a mask.
Police checks are frequent, and those caught risk up to three months in prison and a fine of up to 1,300 dirhams ($130) for violating the rules.
One of the aims of the pilot program, launched at Ain Sebaa prison at the start of May, is to “foster a spirit of citizenship” among detainees and “help them to manage their detention during the lockdown,” prison management said.

SPEEDREAD

The North African kingdom has officially declared 7,300 coronavirus infections, including 197 deaths.

Since Morocco declared a medical state of emergency in mid-March, prison visits and any activities that require outside intervention have been halted.
Hospital visits are limited to emergencies, while court attendance has also been suspended, with hearings held via video conference.
Over 300 virus cases have been recorded among inmates in the country’s prisons, with about a quarter of infections among personnel, according to official figures.
Rights groups have urged authorities to release some detainees to limit the risk of infection among the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons.
At the start of April, King Mohammed VI pardoned more than 5,600 prisoners.
No cases have been registered at the Ain Sebaa facility, which has “rigorously” applied preventive measures, director Abderrahim Kerrari said.
Disinfectant has been installed at the main entrance and in areas leading to the cells, and sanitizing gel stands on every table in the workshop.
Some of the mask-makers, like 54-year-old Mustafa, worked in the clothing industry before their arrest.
He said he was happy to be “useful to society,” while fellow inmate Wafaa, 37, said he’d signed up to develop skills and gain experience.
The program also aims to “prepare inmates for reintegration into society by instilling in them values such as solidarity,” Kerrari said.
Those taking part were already involved in the prison’s sewing workshops, and received two days of training on mask-making.
Participants are paid for their efforts, based on the number of days worked, although the amount was not disclosed.
The administration chose them for their “good conduct,” giving priority to inmates serving shorter sentences, Kerrari added.
Collectively, some one hundred prisoners in around 20 Moroccan facilities are making 20,000 masks a day — just a drop in the ocean when compared to the 10 million produced daily in local factories repurposed in the fight against the pandemic.
But in the workshop of the women’s wing, 35-year-old Meriem expressed a sense of satisfaction in taking part.
“I am very happy to be doing a job that’s useful for our people during the pandemic,” she said.
“I feel I am doing my duty, even if it’s just a modest contribution.”


Lebanon extends coronavirus regulations until July 5

Updated 51 min 19 sec ago

Lebanon extends coronavirus regulations until July 5

  • This is the sixth extension since they were first implemented
  • More beneficiaries were included on the list to receive COVID-19 aid

DUBAI: The Lebanese government has extended its ‘general mobilization against coronavirus’ for another four weeks.
The extension, the sixth since it was first adopted on March 15, was based on recommendations from Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council.
“The measures are still urgent to avert any second wave whose consequences will be difficult to treat,” the country’s information minister Manal Abdel-Samad said.
Lebanon’s government is still committed to the five-stage plan of reopening and security forces will help oversee violations of measures, he added.
Authorities have started the second wave of financial aid distribution to those negatively impacted by COVID-19, Prime Minister Hassan Diab meanwhile said.
The government has included more beneficiaries ‘n line with field studies carried out by the Lebanese Army in direct cooperation with the Interior Ministry, municipalities and mokhtars,’ Abdul-Samad said.
Authorities will allow protests if people wear masks, avoid blocking roads, do not vandalize public or private properties, refrain from clashing with security forces and non-participating civilians, she added.
“We are with the right to protest but that right can transform into chaos if there is a return to blocking roads, vandalizing public and private property … I don’t think that any Lebanese person accepts these practices, which don’t resemble democratic expression,” Abdul-Samad said.