Coronavirus: Here’s how Iran is dealing with pandemic outbreak
The death toll in Iran from the coronavirus has reached 853 and a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected across the country.
Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners in response to the coronavirus epidemic, officials said on Tuesday. It comes as the death toll in Iran from the virus has reached 853 and a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected across the country, one of the worst national outbreaks outside China, where the new virus originated.
“Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners...Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” said spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.
On March 10, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
Many Iranians have ignored calls by the health authorities to stay at home but the establishment have closed the country’s holy Shia Muslim sites and shrines in Tehran and Qom -- the epicentre of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak.
Iranians officials have blamed US sanctions, reimposed on Tehran since Washington quit Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with six powers, for hampering Tehran’s fight against the coronavirus.
Tehran has also called on other countries to back its call for lifting of US sanctions. Last week, Iran said it had asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5 billion in emergency funding to combat the outbreak.
The United Arab Emirates, a rival of Iran, has put aside differences to lend support by sending two planes carrying 32 tonnes of medical supplies, including gloves and surgical masks.
Iran’s clerical rulers have rejected locking down cities despite the rising death toll and the rate of new cases. Other countries in the Middle East have imposed strict measures such as closing their borders and suspending flights.
Worshippers try to force their way into Iran shrine
Meanwhile, some Iranians have tried to force their way into the Shrine of Fatima in Qom after it was temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Outspoken MP Ali Motahhori called for their prosecution, stressing that apart from the health threat, they had defamed Islam.
Experts expressed concern at the start of the outbreak about the decision not to close the Shia Muslim shrine, which is visited by millions of pilgrims every year. The shrine's custodian, Ayatollah Mohammed Saeedi, said at the time that it should be kept open as a "house for cure" and that "people should be encouraged to come".