Israel’s prisons were shut off from the outside world on Tuesday evening due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to the the Israel Prison Service, prisoners will not be able to receive visits, meet with their attorneys or go on furloughs.
The IPS was stocking up on food, hygiene and disinfectant products, and other essential products. The IPS expected the lockdown to last for what it defined as an “extended period.”
So far, there have been no reported cases of coronavirus in Israel’s prisons. However, on March 12 the IPS said it was isolating 119 detainees and 25 staff at the Russian Compound detention center in Jerusalem after an officer reported that she had been in contact with a person infected with coronavirus.
As of Wednesday morning, Israel had 427 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The IPS operates 33 prison facilities throughout the country with around 20,000 prisoners and 9,000 staff.
Concerns have been expressed in several countries that the virus could spread rapidly within a closed prison environment. Iran released some 85,000 prisoners this week as the number of infections and deaths in the country continued to spiral.
Brazil and Italy have both seen prison riots after officials in those countries banned furloughs due to fears prisoners could bring the coronavirus into prisons on their return.
In Italy, 12 inmates died of drug overdoses and 16 others escaped during riots at more than two dozen prisons after corrections authorities suspended or limited family visits for two weeks to prevent the spread of infections. The 12 prisoners who died overdosed after breaking into prison infirmaries. The unrest involved some 6,000 prisoners at facilities around the country.
In Brazil, hundreds of inmates escaped from at least four prisons in the state of Sao Paulo after local officials canceled their temporary exits. Brazilian media said more than 1,000 inmates could be on the loose. Reports also said inmates were complaining about restrictions to visitations this weekend, also aimed at containing the virus.