Iran Releases 70,000 Prisoners As It Battles Virus

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Firefighters disinfect a traditional shopping center to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran. Photo credit-AP

Tehran: The coronavirus outbreaks in China and South Korea appear to be slowing, as countries elsewhere in the world adopt drastic measures to try and stamp out the infection.

Iran has released approximately 70,000 prisoners due to the coronavirus outbreak, Iranian judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday, according to Mizan, the news site of the judiciary.

There were 49 new fatalities in Iran, where some 194 people have now died from COVID-19.

In Italy, where some 16 million people in Lombardy and other parts of the north are now under quarantine, there were 133 deaths reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 366. More than 7,000 people in the country have been confirmed to have the virus.

But the latest figures from China and South Korea suggest the virus might be slowing in northeast Asia.

In Iran Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeisi said it has ordered temporarily release of around 70,000 prisoners in order to prevent a further spread of the disease.

“Prisoners will continue to be furloughed as long as [this measure] does not interfere with the society’s security,” Raeisi told judicial authorities on Monday. “The priority lies with those who have underlying health conditions,” he added.

The chief justice said Iran’s judicial apparatus has also prioritized processing the cases of individuals charged with hoarding hygiene products and other medical requirements amid the country’s efforts to curb the outbreak.

The novel coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed more than 3,800 people and infected over 108,000 others in at least 95 countries.

Iran has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East, with a total of 237 deaths and 7,161 infection cases.

Presenting the latest figures on the epidemic on Monday, head of the Health Ministry’s Public Relations and Information Center Kianoush Jahanpour  said 595 new infections had been diagnosed since Sunday.

Medical authorities, however, are upbeat about the country’s ability to subdue the outbreak, citing the rate at which patients have been recovering from the disease. Jahanpour said at least 2,394 people have been released from hospitals after regaining their health.

Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) described Iran’s capability and performance in controlling the virus as exemplary.

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