Ethiopia jailing people for up to 2 years for not wearing masks in public: Report

Biden urges the president to back universal mask mandate

In a visit to the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Florida, Joe Biden calls on President Trump to issue a universal mask mandate.

Ethiopia will start jailing people for up to two years if they refuse to wear face masks in public, according to Reuters. 

The country has 89,860 total coronavirus cases and 1,365 deaths, according to the Ethiopian embassy in Washington, 

This is likely a notable undercount, because testing there is limited, as it has been in other countries. 

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Other restrictions in Africa's second-most populous country include staying at least 6 feet apart and not shaking hands, according to Reuters.

Officials take Lideta Church visitors’ temperature as a precaution against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 9. (Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"Due to coordinated efforts, [coronavirus] did not affect Ethiopia as it did in other countries. However, the damage will be worse if we do not return to a state of normalcy while taking precautions," the prime minister of Ethiopia said in Facebook update this week. "Let's keep our distance, wear masks, and keep our hands clean."

Ethiopia's U.S. embassy did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. 

Dozens of countries around the world introduced a mask mandate at some point during the pandemic. 

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In the United States, 34 states and Washington mandate some form of mask-wearing in public, according to a count by Axios. 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has called for a nationwide mask mandate. 

“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum — every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing," Biden said in August. 

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President Trump, meanwhile, has criticized Biden's call for a mask mandate, though he recently encouraged Americans to wear them after initially resisting wearing one himself. 

"We will continue to urge Americans to wear masks when they cannot socially distance, but we do not need to bring the full weight of the federal government down on law-abiding Americans to accomplish this goal," Trump said in August. "Americans must have their freedoms."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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