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DR Congo frees 1,200 inmates amid coronavirus outbreak

Release to help reduce spread of COVID-19 in prisons, says official

James Tasamba   | 08.04.2020
DR Congo frees 1,200 inmates amid coronavirus outbreak

KIGALI, Rwanda 

The Democratic Republic of Congo has released 1,200 inmates to decongest prisons as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the country's justice minister said Tuesday.    

“In the past few days, we have been decongesting our prisons starting with the large Makala Prison, where at least 700 prisoners were released on parole,” Celestin Tunda told UN Radio Okapi.  

Noting that the release will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Congolese prisons, Tunda said the process is still ongoing for inmates with different categories of offenses.   

Magistrates across the country have been encouraged to make release a principle and only detain for exceptional cases, he added.  

According to Tunda, inmates not eligible for release are those facing serious crimes such as murder and battery resulting in death, rape, defilement and threatening state security.  

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Democratic Republic of Congo on March 10, health officials have reported 183 confirmed cases and 20 deaths with 10 recoveries as of Tuesday.  

The global death toll from COVID-19 stands at 82,074 while the number of cases totals over 1.4 million with more than 300,700 recoveries, according to figures released by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.   

The virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China in December, has spread to at least 184 countries and regions.

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