Iran extends temporary release of prisoners as coronavirus death toll rises

Iran extends temporary release of prisoners as coronavirus death toll rises
A temporary release for some 100,000 prisoners in Iran has been extended, authorities said on Sunday, as the death toll increased to 2,640.
3 min read
30 March, 2020
More than 2,600 people have died of the disease in Iran [AFP]
Iranian authorities extended furloughs for 100,000 prisoners on Sunday, as the Middle East’s worst-hit country grapples with the fast-spreading outbreak.

The move came after authorities earlier this month said it had temporarily released 85,000 from prison, including political prisoners such as British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“The second wave of (the) temporary release of prisoners had already started and their (100,000 prisoners) furloughs have been extended until April 19,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was reported as saying by state television.

Iranian authorities initially said they would release 70,000 prisoners, but was subsequently criticised for leaving political detainees imprisoned.

Iran has been one of the hardest hit countries in the region, with an outbreak that has led to more than 38,309 cases, putting pressure on the heavily pressured health service.

Iranian ministers, MPs and generals have also been infected by the virus, and earlier this month Nasser Shabani, a top military commander in Iran’s IRGC forces was confirmed dead from the disease.

On Sunday, a health ministry official said the death toll from the novel coronavirus has increased to 2,640.

“In the past 24 hours we had 123 deaths and 2,901 people have been infected, bringing the total number of infected people to 38,309,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the health minister, said in a tweet. “12,391 people infected from the virus have recovered.”

Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV that 3,467 of those infected were in “critical condition”, Reuters reported.

“I am happy to announce that also 12,391 people who had been infected across the country have recovered,” Jahanpur said. “The average age of those who have died of the disease is 69.”

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani warned on Sunday that "the new way of life" in Iran was likely to be prolonged as the country combats COVID-19.

"We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date," President Hassan Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting.

"The new way of life we have adopted" is to everyone's benefit, he said, adding that "these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time".

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 34,017 people worldwide, while over 724,588 infections have been confirmed.

The majority of those that infected with corona experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough.

As of yet, there are no known treatments for the virus, though more than 152,076 have already recovered from the infection.

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