The inmates at a prison in El Salvador were forced together in a jailhouse lockdown as authorities ignored the social distancing guideline on April 25.

The prison inmates in Izalco were crammed next to each other seemingly interlocking their bodies, after President Nayib Bukele ordered a 24-hour lockdown of prisons that contains gang members. President Bukele said that the leaders of the gang would be sent into solitary confinement after a sudden spike of 22 homicides on April 24.

President Bukele wrote on Twitter "No contact with the outside world. Shops will remain closed and all activities are suspended until further notice. Gang leaders will go into solitary confinement."

The president also said that the maximum emergency lockdown would be enforced while police investigated the 22 murders that were reported on April 24. The number of murders reported on that day was the highest total in a single day since President Bukele took office last June, a police spokesman said.

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Street gang crisis

A few years ago, El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the Americas. The country has long been plagued by powerful street gangs known as maras. But murders have fallen significantly under President Bukele and the Central American country has in recent months registered several days without any murder reports.

El Salvador has imposed some of the strictest measures in the Americas in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The country began its nationwide lockdown on March 22 and has made breaking lockdown rules punishable with imprisonment. Numerous human rights organizations in the country have campaigned against the strict measures and have fought against some of the detention rules that have not allowed people to be seen in front of a court before being jailed.

The constitutional court of the country has ruled to release some people that are detained illegally. But President Nayib Bukele has continued to defend the police's authority to detain people and send them to quarantine.

According to Celia Medrano, the chief program officer of San Salvador-based human rights organization Cristosal, the government is insisting on using confinement as a punishment to whoever violates executive orders, which are unsustainable.

Medrano told Al Jazeera that the government has to consider that there is a situation of informal employment for subsistence for a lot of people who are not in conditions to maintain quarantine in their own homes.

On March 15, El Salvador has declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic, and they've banned all travels. A few days after, President Bukele announced a total lockdown of the country to stop the spread of the virus. On April 6, the government warned that they've imposed a stricter lockdown rule. Offenders were sent to containment centers and will stay there for 30 days and their cars were confiscated.

Coronavirus update on El Salvador

The country has 6.4 million people and as of April 27 it has a total of 323 confirmed infections of coronavirus with 8 deaths and 89 total recovered cases. It is still unclear when the lockdown will be lifted.

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