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Morocco to Free 5,654 Prisoners over Virus Fears, Lebanese Expats Return Home

Morocco to Free 5,654 Prisoners over Virus Fears, Lebanese Expats Return Home

Sunday, 5 April, 2020 - 07:00
Morocco deployed armored vehicles in the capital Rabat to ensure compliance with emergency measures imposed due to the coronavirus. (AFP)

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has pardoned 5,654 prisoners and ordered measures to protect inmates from the coronavirus outbreak, the justice ministry said on Sunday.

The inmates were selected on the basis of their age, frail health, time spent in prison and good conduct, the ministry said in a statement.

The north African country has confirmed as of Sunday morning 919 coronavirus cases, including 59 deaths.

It has imposed a month-long lockdown restricting movement to purchases of food or medicine and to staffing some key jobs. The government has promised monthly support of about $120 a month to households where the main provider has lost work in the informal economy because of the lockdown.

Lebanese expats return

Several flights carrying Lebanese stranded abroad by coronavirus lockdowns began arriving in Beirut on Sunday, part of a trial run to see whether thousands looking to come home can be safely repatriated without worsening the country's outbreak.

Their return became a charged issue after parliament Speaker Nabih Berri threatened to suspend support for the government if it did not act quickly and other top figures urged immediate action.

Lebanon's crippling financial crisis including tight capital controls has complicated the plight of Lebanese stuck abroad, with tough restrictions on accessing cash. The government has pledged to help ease bank transfers for students overseas.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, speaking to reporters at Beirut international airport on Sunday, said about 21,000 Lebanese had registered for flights back to Lebanon.

Four flights on Sunday, from Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Lagos and Abidjan, will return about 400 passengers, according to airport sources. They will be tested for coronavirus at the airport and quarantined at hotels while awaiting results.

"Hopefully this cloud, the cloud that is the health situation with corona, passes quickly and infections are minimal for Lebanese whether at home or abroad," said Diab.

Lebanon has recorded 527 coronavirus cases and 18 deaths. Health officials warn that many facilities are ill-equipped to take on a major outbreak of the pandemic amid a months-long dollar shortage that has disrupted supply chains.

Lebanon said on Sunday it was tightening lockdown measures further to contain viral contagion, restricting the movement of cars, trucks and motorcycles to three assigned days per week. It has also shut most businesses and imposed an overnight curfew.

In the neighboring Palestinian territories, authorities registered nine new virus cases, raising the total to 226.

A health official revealed that the new cases were reported in Beitunia in Ramallah, Bartaa in Jenin, and Rafat, Qatanna, al- Judeira and Kafr in Jerusalem.

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