Thirty six inmates test positive for coronavirus in Salvadoran prisons

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Three dozen inmates in Salvadoran prisons have tested positive for coronavirus, health authorities said Monday, adding that strict health and isolation protocols would be implemented to halt the virus’s spread in the facilities.

Twenty-five inmate cases were diagnosed in a prison holding more than 1,200 inmates in the department of San Vicente, Osiris Luna, director of the country’s prison system, told a news conference Monday. The Quezaltepeque prison near the capital, which holds 1,980 prisoners, registered 11 cases, he added.

“We have begun treating and isolating these people,” he said. “There is an area for isolation in every prison.”

Conditions in Salvadoran prisons have come under greater scrutiny after the government in April released startling photos of hundreds of jailed gang members stripped to underwear and pressed together in formation, drawing strong criticism from human rights groups.

The photos were released after a spike of homicides in April prompted President Nayib Bukele to toughen security measures in prisons for gang members, including house members of rival groups Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Ward 18 in the same cells.

The Quezaltepeque prison, which holds gang members, was subject to the new security measures. The measures were not implemented in the San Vicente facility.

El Salvador reported a total of 35 deaths and 1,983 cases of coronavirus on Monday.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; writing by Julia Love; Editing by Michael Perry

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