Yangon, April 17 (IANS) Myanmar on Friday announced the release of more than 24,800 prisoners, a quarter of its jailed population, on the occasion of the Buddhist New Year and amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities pardon thousands of prisoners every year, but this New Year forgave more than double than on previous occasions in a country with a total prison population of about 100,000 people, reports Efe news.

The Office of the President indicated in a statement, in which it does not mention COVID-19 among the reasons for the amnesty, that the measure also includes commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment for several inmates and prison reductions.

Despite the fact that the authorities have banned meetings of more than five people due to the novel coronavirus, relatives of the inmates gathered outside the Insein prison in Yangon.

The UN has called for countries to release vulnerable and sick non-dangerous prisoners to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in prisons, which in countries of the region such as Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand are overcrowded.

Earlier this month, Indonesia released some 30,000 inmates, and other countries such as Iran, Germany, and Canada have taken similar steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Myanmar has reported 84 confirmed coronavirus cases and four deaths.

–IANS

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