Ethiopia can now punish citizens with up to two years in prison if they refuse to wear a mask or violate other COVID-19 guidelines, according to reports.
Africa’s second-largest country by population is stepping up enforcement of coronavirus restrictions out of fear that residents are getting too comfortable, according to Reuters. Ethiopian authorities lifted a state of emergency regarding the virus in September, per Reuters. (RELATED: Woman Incorrectly Wearing Face Masks Throws Punches At Delta Flight Attendant)
Other punishable acts include shaking hands, sitting at a table with more than three people, and standing less than “two adult steps” apart, Reuters says. Ethopian Health Minister Lia Tadesse warned on Twitter that people becoming too relaxed will “cause a possible increase in the spread of the disease and might be a threat to the nation.”
#Ethiopia: Virus cases surpass 90K as schools reopen in Ethiopia https://t.co/GlbmZAzMSO “The fact that the five-month COVID-19 state of emergency has been lifted & restrictions have been relaxed might have created a sense of imprudence in observing necessary care,” @lia_tadesse
— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) October 21, 2020
The country has seen more than 91,000 COVID-19 cases thus far and 1,384 deaths, Reuters reports. Authorities postponed regional and parliamentary elections in August due to the global pandemic.
The virus has not spread as much in Africa as it has in Europe or the United States, Reuters reports. Experts suspect this is due to the continent’s higher rural population and lower average age than much of the developed world, per Reuters. The United States has now surpassed 220,000 coronavirus deaths while many parts of Europe are seeing surges of new cases.