Iran to Release 70,000 Prisoners to Prevent Coronavirus Spread
Iran on Monday announced it would release 70,000 prisoners in an attempt to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus in detention facilities throughout the country.
The dramatic decision comes at a time of crisis for the Islamic Republic as it struggles to handle the fallout from the epidemic of the virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19. The death toll there almost doubled over the weekend, rising from 124 on Friday to 237 as of Monday morning, with 43 Iranians dying in the prior 24 hours.
"Prisoners will continue to be furloughed as long as [their release] does not interfere with the society's security," Ebrahim Rayeesi, chief of Iran's judiciary, said Monday according to Iranian state news. "The priority lies with those who have underlying health conditions."
Iran's judiciary would also prioritize prosecuting those believed to be hoarding medical supplies amid the virus' spread. Health officials there identified 595 new patients infected with the coronavirus, bringing the total number in Iran above 7,100. Local officials said almost 2,400 of those have recovered.
The Iranian military, which its government mobilized to restrict travel within Iran and to distribute medical supplies, will begin construction of emergency hospitals in an attempt to expedite the virus' eradication.
Iran's decision comes as governments worldwide clamp down on civil liberties in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Italy has imposed self-quarantine measures in its northern reaches until at least the beginning of April, including the tourist hub of Milan, attempting what some consider the largest restriction of free movement for a Western society outside of wartime. Local news reported deaths from coronavirus there jumped by more than 50 percent from Saturday to Sunday.
Authorities in China, where the virus is believed to have originated, said Monday they have reported the fewest new cases of the coronavirus since January, when they began tracking its spread. South Korean health officials said Monday they believed they had "passed the peak" of the spread of the virus there.