Togo's prisons will reopen to the public on Friday for visits to inmates after two years of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Justice Minister Pius Kokouvi Agbetomey announced on Tuesday.
Inmates in the West African country have been deprived of visiting rights since April 13, 2020. According to authorities, this was part of the plans to protect inmates “from the risk of contamination from outside".
"Thus, visits to prisoners by relatives, friends and civil society organisations are once again authorised as of Friday 22 April 2022," he continued.
Visitors will however be allowed on condition that they present "a vaccination pass or an authentic PCR test dating back less than 72 hours" with the "compulsory wearing of a protective mask", the minister's statement said.
In Togo, as in many African countries, visits are almost vital for detainees as they allow relatives to bring them food, clothes and medicines, as the prison system is generally underfunded.
For many Togolese, the ban on visits to prisoners was disproportionate to the health situation.
Togo, which detected its first case of Covid-19 in early March 2020, has recorded a total of 36,969 cases including 273 deaths, according to official figures released on Tuesday.
In recent months, opposition political parties and civil society organisations have repeatedly called for prisons to be reopened to the public for prisoner visits.