RABAT (Reuters) – Sixty-eight people, mostly staff, have come down with the coronavirus at a prison in the southern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate, prison authorities said on Tuesday, without reporting any deaths.

Earlier this month Morocco released 5,645 prisoners – some of them in poor health – to help reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading in its prisons as has happened in other countries.

At the Ouarzazate facility, at least six inmates were among those to have contracted the coronavirus and all were now undergoing testing, a prison statement said.

Morocco has confirmed 3,186 cases of the COVID-19 lung disease including 144 deaths. It has imposed a lockdown on public life that has been extended until May 20, and made the wearing of face masks in public compulsory.

Morocco’s prime minister said on Tuesday the rise in cases despite weeks of lockdown restrictions is due to transmission within families, factories and commercial centres, where food shops remain open.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)