Six prisoners in Italy die of overdoses after protests over coronavirus containment measures

Inmates stage a rooftop protest at San Vittore prison in Milan. (Miguel Medina/AFP)

Six inmates protesting against Covid-19 containment measures at a northern Italian prison have died after they broke into the infirmary and overdosed on methadone, police have said.

The protest on Sunday in Modena was among the first of more than two dozen riots at Italy’s overcrowded lock-ups that grew on Monday.

Human rights advocates have warned that increasing tensions over fears of coronavirus are hitting inmates particularly hard, especially after restrictions were imposed on family visits to prevent transmissions.

Around 60 protesters set fire to the prison in Modena, in the north of the country, during an uprising that went on for hours, according to officials.

Authorities say protests have since broken out in 27 jails against restrictions imposed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak after the government locked down northern Italy on Sunday, placing up to 16 million people in quarantine.

Anti-riot police officers stand guard outside San Vittore prison in Milan as inmates stage a rooftop protest. (Miguel Medina/AFP)

The trouble began in Modena, near Bologna, when inmates were told that visits were being suspended. Army soldiers and Carabinieri officers surrounded the prison to prevent prisoners from escaping into the town.

At the San Vittore prison in Milan, inmates climbed onto the roof of the facility, setting ablaze one of the six wings.

About 20 prisoners broke out of prison in Foggia in the south, along with another 32 who were quickly recaptured.


Read more: Questions doctors are being asked about the coronavirus

The Modena revolt started at about 2pm local time on Sunday after prisoners were told that the government's emergency coronavirus decree banned family and friends from visiting.

It's thought that at least two of the dead were killed by drug overdoses.

Inmates hang on to bars behind windows of a wing as they protest at San Vittore prison in Milan. (Miguel Medina/AFP)
Prison police officers stand guard as the coroner's car leaves the Sant'Anna prison in Modena. (Piero Cruciatti/AFP)

The Foreign Office has advised Britons against all but essential travel to parts of Italy included in the coronavirus quarantine Red Zone areas.

Read more: British volunteers to be infected with coronavirus in scramble to develop vaccine

Italy has now registered more cases of the disease than any other country outside China.

The Italian coronavirus death count rose from 133 to 366 over the weekend and infections rose by a single-day record from 1,492 to 7,375.

The disease has now killed nearly 3,792 people worldwide and infected more than 109,000 in 99 countries and territories.