54K Inmates Get Released Because of Coronavirus

Iranian authorities claim they all tested negative
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2020 2:18 AM CST
Iran Frees 54K Prisoners to Fight Coronavirus Spread
A medic disinfects hands of colleague against coronavirus at a hospital in Tehran, Iran.   (Koosha Mahshid Falahi/Mizan News Agency via AP)

Iran's coronavirus crisis is now so severe that tens of thousands of prisoners are being released. Authorities said Tuesday that to combat the spread of the virus in crowded prisons, around 54,000 inmates have been temporarily released after posting bail and testing negative for COVID-19, the BBC reports. There is a major shortage of testing kits in Iran, so it's not clear how many of the prisoners were actually tested, the New York Times reports.

Authorities say "security prisoners" serving more than five years will not be released. Iran says 2,336 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 77 have died, but the true number of people infected is believed to be much higher. Authorities say they plan to start a nationwide screening program Wednesday. (Almost 10% of Iran's lawmakers have been infected.)

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