At least 1,305 people were arrested in Ethiopia’s capital for “violating the state of emergency,” as they did not wear mask at public places, police said in a statement on Wednesday.

Ethiopia has so far reported 163 coronavirus cases and five deaths.

Responding to the police statement, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said “arbitrary arrests” being made by police in the capital Addis Ababa was “needless.”

On April 8, Ethiopia declared a five-month state of emergency making the wearing of face masks at public places mandatory, among other restrictions.

“Covering nose and mouth are recommended health measures to prevent the spread of #COVID19 and the public needs to follow these critical health directives,” the commission said in a statement. 

“Indeed, the Emergency Regulations impose an obligation to wear face covering in public service areas such as markets, shops, transport services or other public spaces with large number of people where social distancing is not possible,” it added.

However, the commission said: “Arbitrary arrest of people on the streets is outside the regulation” and should be stopped immediately.

It called on authorities to release all detained persons.

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