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Iran Says Tens Of Thousands Of Prisoners Released Because Of Coronavirus Fears


The funeral of Fatemeh Rahbar, a newly elected lawmaker from Tehran who died on March 6 from the coronavirus.

Iranian authorities have released about 70,000 prisoners because of the new coronavirus outbreak in the country, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi said, as Iran reported 43 new deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours.

"The release of the prisoners, to the point where it doesn't create insecurity in society...will continue," Raisi said on March 9, according to Mizan, the news site of the judiciary.

It was not immediately clear if or when the released inmates would need to return to jail.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour later announced that there were 595 new cases of coronavirus across Iran, bringing the total to 7,161.

The official death toll stands at 237, he said.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office announced on March 9 that Khamenei has cancelled an annual speech marking the start of the Persian new year due to concerns about the coronavirus.

"The ceremony of the speech of the supreme leader, which takes place every year at the sacred mausoleum of Imam Reza...will not take place this year" and Khamenei will not travel to the city of Mashhad, Khamenei's office said in a statement.

Iranian authorities have closed schools and universities, suspended major cultural and sporting events, and reduced working hours across the country to slow the contagion.

Experts worry Iranian officials may be underreporting the outbreak.

With 1,945 cases, Tehran remains the area with the most cases, according to Jahanpour.

He said the second worst-hit province is Qom, with 712 confirmed cases.

There are more than 110,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with over 3,800 deaths attributed to the disease.

Romania, meanwhile, has suspended all flights to and from Italy for at least two weeks in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.

Interior Minister Marcel Vela said late on March 8 that the measure would start from midnight until March 23, with the possibility of being extended.

No measures have been taken for ground border checkpoints, but people coming from Italy, China, South Korea, and Iran would need to be quarantined for checks, Vela said.

Earlier, the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) announced that all Romanian league matches will be played without spectators because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Romania has confirmed 15 cases in people who had traveled to Italy, where about 1.3 million Romanians work.

In Italy, the number of coronavirus cases has jumped to 7,375, with 366 fatalities – the highest death toll after China, where the disease first emerged.

With reporting by Reuters, Mizan, and AFP
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