Just a day before the country’s prisons were scheduled to go into lockdown in response to Covid-19, hundreds of inmates have reportedly escaped from Brazilian prisons. The Sao Paolo prison authority said that the exact number of escapees is unknown at this time but it could be as many as 1,000.

The inmates made their escapes from four jails Mongaguá, Tremembé, Porto Feliz and Mirandópolis on Monday, prior to the shutdown of their day-release programs. Roughly 34,000 prisoners took part in the program and continuing to operate it amidst a global pandemic “would have a high potential to install and propagate the coronavirus in a vulnerable population, generating health risks for servers and custodians.”

One Brazilian news outlet reported that of the escaped inmates, around 400 came from Mongaguá prison.

“These prisoners were unhappy about the decision that suspended the Easter leave,” Lincoln Gakiya, a Sao Paolo prosecutor, explained. “The prisoners were told and in some units, rebelled.”

Brazil’s military police have been quick to tackle the issue. The prison authority has reported that 174 of the escaped inmates have been recovered so far.

There have been 321 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Brazil and one death. President Jail Bolsonaro was once reported to have tested positive for the virus but this report was denied and a more recent test for the leader was said to have come back negative.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, pictured in Brasilia March 13, 2020, made a US visit that looks like an infection cluster in the coronavirus pandemic
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, pictured in Brasilia March 13, 2020. AFP / Sergio LIMA