Ethiopia’s attorney general’s office has said the government will soon begin to put people in jail for up to two years or fine them if they are found violating restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
According to Reuters, the COVID-19 restrictions prohibit shaking hands, not wearing a mask in a public place, seating more than three people at a table, or not keeping two adult steps, around six feet, apart.
In a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said the new law permits fines and imprisonment for up to two years for anyone who breaks the restrictions.
“Now it is as if COVID is no longer there, the public is not taking care,” Health Minister Lia Tadesse tweeted on Thursday. “This will cause a possible increase in the spread of the disease and might be a threat to the nation.”
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, declared a state of emergency in April to stop the spread of the pandemic. The government later lifted the emergency in September.
Ethiopia’s health ministry has reported 91,693 confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than 1,396 deaths, and 45,260 recoveries so far.
On Tuesday, the government announced the partial reopening of schools across the country except in Addis Ababa where 70% of the virus cases have been reported.
“The current reality is that #COVID19 will be here for some time. Decisions had to be made in light of this understanding,” Minister for Health Lia Tadesse tweeted.
Tadesse said that it won’t be a wise decision to keep children out of school for more time. She added that the government is now taking steps for safe school reopening.
The schools have been reopened strictly adhering to COVID-19 prevention guidelines to avoid transmission.
Ethiopia’s regional and parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for August, have also been postponed due to the outbreak. The elections are now expected to be held sometime next year.