Iran frees 54,000 prisoners to contain virus; World Bank offers $12 billion emergency aid

While the World Bank pledged emergency funding for developing countries, the US central bank cut interest rates to cushion the virus impact on the world's largest economy.

  • Updated

In a desperate measure Iran said it was freeing a large horde of prisoners to help contain the spread of coronavirus, which has taken dozens of lives in the country and infected about 8percent of the parliamentarians. More than 54,000 prisoners will be freed temporarily and the released inmates will be under the supervision of the health ministry, Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA reported, citing Judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili.

"The health of the prisoners is very important for us regardless of their status as security prisoners or regular prisoners." Esmaili said. Severy-sebn people have died of the virus in Iran, including a top aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The country has reported as many as 2,336 positive cases of infection and this includes top functionaries and parliamentarians.

Coronavirus status as of 3 March, 2020
Coronavirus status as of 3 March, 2020 GISAID

Italy, Iran in focus

Iran, along with Italy, has emerged as one of the two hot spots for the Covid-19 virus after China where it originated. On Tuesday, several videos emerged online that showed Iranians infected with the disease collapsing on the streets. One video from the Iranian holy city of Qom, where the virus was first reported in the country, purportedly showed scores of dead bodies wrapped in plastic bags.

Seyed Mohammad Mir-Mohammadi, a close aide of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei died of coronavirus infection on Monday. Several high-ranking officials, including a vice minister, deputy health minister and five lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Iran. In Italy, the death toll from Covid-19 has gone up to 79 while confirmed cases touched 2,263. Spain also reported its first coronavirus death on Tuesday. The WHO has underscored the fact that some 3.4 percent of the confirmed cases of Covid-19 have died, which is quite higher than the fatality rate of seasonal flu.

Emergency supplies 'rapidly depleting'

Meanwhile in the US, the number of the novel coronavirus infections has gone up to 122 cases. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the death toll has inched up to nine. All of the deaths have happened in the Washington state. The first case of coronavirus infection was reported from Berkley, California, on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization, which said on Monday that the world was on an 'uncharted territory' owing to the deadly virus, warned on Tuesday that the protective gear needed to fight the disease was "rapidly depleting". The world over, supplies of essential medical and pharmaceutical products are coming under pressure, resulting in panic buying, hoarding and inflated prices.

Amazon reported that sellers charge prices inflated manifold and that it was clamping down on the practice. It said sanitisers and respiratory masks were being sold at prices more than 2,000 percent higher in some cases. The retailer said it has removed "tens of thousands" of listings, the Guardian reported. Meanwhile, the Financial Times said in one case, a pack of 20 masks, which would normally sell for around $14.99, was being sold for $387 by some unauthorised reseller.

US central bank cuts rates to cushion impact

On Tuesday, the US Federal Reserve reduced interest rates by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00 percent to 1.25 percent. The Fed move comes amid rising fears that the world would slip into a recession if the virus outbreak is not contained fully in the near term. "The virus and the measures that are being taken to contain it will surely weigh on economic activity, both here and abroad, for some time," Fed chair Jerome Powell said.

World Bank pledges emergency funding for developing countries

In another major move the World Bank said on Tuesday it was committing $12bn (£9.4bn) for developing countries struggling with the fight against coronavirus outbreak. The emergency package will help hard hit countries offer low-cost loans, grants and technical assistance, the bank said. "What we're trying to do is limit the transmission of the disease," World Bank Group President David Malpass told the BBC.

Related topics : Coronavirus