Amid the rising cases of COVID-19 around the world, countries in the Middle East have imposed travel restrictions and other precautionary measures. At present, the hardest hit in the region is Iran, with more than 8,000 confirmed cases and almost 300 deaths.
To combat the rapid spread of COVID-19 in jails, Iran has temporarily released about 70,000 prisoners, the country’s head of the judiciary stated on Monday, 9th March 2020.
70K Prisoners Freed from Jail due to COVID-19
Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi announced the temporary release of prisoners, as the country faces the rapidly spreading COVID-19, Arab News reported. Iran has one of the highest case and death rates outside China, where the novel coronavirus originated.
The release of prisoners shall continues “to the point where it doesn’t create insecurity in society,” Raisi said, as cited by the Mizan news site of the judiciary. However, he did not mention any details about when the released prisoners would have to return to jail.
On Monday, the United Nations (UN) stated that Iranian prisoners have been infected with COVID-19. Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said: “Recent reports indicate that the COVID-19 virus has spread inside Iranian prisons.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has canceled his speech in Mashhad city for the Persian New Year, 20th March. Based on a statement on his official website, the decision was made as part of a campaign to prevent further infections.
“The ceremony for the speech of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic revolution, which happens every year on the first day of the new year in [Imam Reza’s holy shrine] will not take place this year and the Supreme Leader will not travel to holy Mashhad,” according to the statement, which added that the move was based on the recommendation of health officials, for the Supreme Leader to avoid large gatherings and minimise travel.
Likewise, officials have expressed concern about the possibility of COVID-19 spreading during Nowruz, which is the beginning of the Iranian new year. During this period, families usually travel to different vacation spots across the country.
This year, the health ministry has imposed travel restrictions between provinces, and advised Iranians to stay home. However, heavy traffic has been observed along roads leading to the Caspian Sea (a popular Nowruz vacation spot), despite the warnings.
COVID-19 Cases Worldwide
As of this writing, Channel News Asia reports that there are 118,180 confirmed cases and 4,292 reported deaths due to COVID-19 worldwide. Majority of these are in China, with 80,778 confirmed cases and 3,158 reported deaths.
As cited earlier, Iran has one of the highest number of cases outside China, with 8,042 confirmed cases and 291 reported deaths. Italy and South Korea have reported high figures as well: 10,149 cases and 631 deaths (Italy); 7,755 cases and 60 deaths (South Korea).
Elsewhere in the region, the numbers of COVID-19 cases are as follows:
- Bahrain — 109 confirmed cases / 0 reported deaths
- Iraq – 71 confirmed cases / 7 reported deaths
- Kuwait — 69 confirmed cases / 0 reported deaths
- United Arab Emirates (UAE) — 59 confirmed cases / 0 reported deaths
- Saudi Arabia — 20 confirmed cases / 0 reported deaths
- Oman — 18 confirmed cases / 0 reported deaths
- Qatar — 18 confirmed cases / 0 reported deaths
- Jordan — 1 confirmed case / 0 reported deaths
At this time, all of us should stay tuned for the latest updates on COVID-19 cases, wherever we may be in the world. We should also rely only on trusted sources of information, and avoid spreading unverified news, as this could only cause unnecessary fear and panic.