Iran has temporarily released over 54,000 prisoners in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.
Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told BBC News and CNN that inmates were allowed out of prison after they tested negative for COVID-19 and posted bail.
“The health of the prisoners is very important for us regardless of their status as security prisoners or regular prisoners,” Esmaili told CNN.
According to BBC News, prisoners who were sentenced to more than five years, called “security prisoners,” will not be freed.
The death toll in Iran has now risen to 92, per CNN, as 586 new cases were reported overnight Tuesday, which brings the total up to 2,922 in the country.
Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have all reported cases with links to the Iranian city of Qom, a popular tourist site, CNN reported.
The Iranian government said Wednesday that those in Qom showing signs of the virus will be immediately quarantined. Medical teams will also be taking temperatures of anyone attempting to leave the city.
As of Wednesday, there have been at least 94,250 confirmed cases of COVD-19 worldwide, with 80,270 of those cases in mainland China where the virus originated, recent data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
The United States has reported 128 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, while the death toll has risen to nine, all from Washington. Most of the deaths came from patients at a long-term nursing facility in Kirkland, just outside of Seattle.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, said that they “expect to find more cases.”
“What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad,” she said, referring to the instances of community spread in countries like Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
The CDC says that the best prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful handwashing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.
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