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  • More than 114,000 people have been infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus across the globe and over 4,000 have died since the epidemic emerged.

    More than 114,000 people have been infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus across the globe and over 4,000 have died since the epidemic emerged. | Photo: EFE

Published 12 March 2020
Opinion

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that his state would also be using prison labor to produce 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for schools, prisons, transportation systems, and other government agencies.

Prisoners are being used to produce face masks and hand gels in the United States, and Hong Kong after the rapidly spreading coronavirus provoked shortages.

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The women have complained about their health and low pay as they earn around HK$800 (US$102) a month for non-stop production; significantly under Hong Kong’s minimum wage of HK$37.50 (US$5) per hour.

About 1,200 retired or off-duty prison officers are also working to shore up the supplies for the masks.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has infected more than 114,000 people across the globe, and over 4,000 have died since it emerged three months ago in China, blowing up the demand for face masks even as health officials have said healthy people do not need them.

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that his state would also be using prison labor to produce 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for schools, prisons, transportation systems, and other government agencies.

Some U.S. politicians criticized the decision. Democrat Ayanna Pressley highlighted the “ironic” link between the equipment prisoners are making and their vulnerability.

Campaigners at the National Prison Project warned that prison inmates are among the most vulnerable populations to the spread of the epidemic.

“There is ample opportunity for a virus to enter prison or jail, and for it to go back out into the community. Once a contagious illness enters, conditions in correctional facilities are highly conducive to it spreading.”

Some U.S. lawyers have called for the release from jail of elderly and vulnerable people to protect them from the outbreak.

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