02/26/2020, 11.13
CHINA
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Coronavirus: hundreds of infected in Chinese prisons

The most affected prisons are in Hubei, Shandong and Zhejiang. The central government admits errors, while dozens of officials are removed. The confined spaces favor propagation. Prisoners' relatives: spread of the virus due to overcrowding and poor hygiene.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - According to Chinese health authorities, 555 prisoners in prisons in the central and eastern provinces of the country have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19), which has killed more than 2700 so far and infected over 78 thousand people .

The hardest hit is the Wuhan Women's Prison (Hubei), where 230 cases are reported, followed by the Rencheng (Shandong) prison with 207 patients. About thirty are those reported in the Shilifeng penitentiary (Zhejiang). The problem also affects other correctional facilities, such as detention houses for "administrative" detentions and mandatory rehabilitation and detoxification centers.

In all affected penitentiaries, there are also several prison guards among the infected. Dozens of senior Party officials in prisons affected by the epidemic have been removed or placed under investigation. Their fault is that they did not prevent the infection effectively.

 Xiong Xuanguo, deputy minister of justice, addmitted to serous errors claiming that the spread of lung infection in prisons reveals the shortcomings  of the national penitentiary system. Guo Shengkun, head of the Communist Party's Committee on Legal and Political Affairs, said that those responsible for prisons must adopt "combat" measures to prevent the spread of lung infection in their institutions.

Party leaders in Hubei have allocated only 385,000 yuan (around 50,000 euros) to contain the threat in 30 provincial prisons. Central government authorities have promised more action to tackle the prison crisis.

Confinement in cells favors the spread of the virus. Prisoners usually come into contact with eacho other in recreation periods, or in workshops where they do poorly paid jobs. Prisoners' relatives, especially activists and political dissidents, claim that the spread of the virus is largely due to the poor living conditions in prisons: overcrowding (20-30 people crammed into a cell with a maximum of 15 beds) and scarce hygienic conditions.

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