Burkina Faso frees prisoners to stem virus spread

A worker dressed in full body gear disinfects the Rood Woko great market in Ouagadougou. AFP Photo

Burkina Faso president Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Thursday pardoned more than 1,200 prisoners in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the poor West African country.

"This remission of jail sentences will affect 1,207 people who will receive help in reintegrating themselves into society," communications minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou told a news briefing.

The freed prisoners "were chosen on the basis of their advanced age, their state of health and the completion of half their sentence," he said, stressing that no one convicted of "acts of organised crime or terrorism" had been released.

A total of 7,621 people are in jail or held in detention in Burkina Faso, and authorities have already suspended all prison visits.

Since two cases of COVID-19 were detected in the country on March 9, Burkina Faso has a total of 288 registered cases and 16 deaths. Around 50 people have been declared recovered.

A curfew has been imposed across the whole of the country and around a dozen towns where at least one case was registered have been placed in quarantine.

Burkina Faso has also declared a health emergency, banned gatherings of more than 50 people and closed its borders, as well as markets, schools and places of worship.