Nearly 500 inmates in Malawi will be released from prisons after 107 inmates and 21 prison guards tested positive for the novel coronavirus, local media reported.

According to the Daily Times, Richard Chimwendo, homeland security minister, said President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has pardoned 499 prisoners as part of reducing congestion in our prisons.

The announcement also follows the death of a prisoner on Thursday due to COVID-19.

Malawi has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country’s prisons which are heavily crowded. 

There are 14,000 inmates in the country’s prisons that are meant to accommodate 5,000 prisoners.

Chimwemwe Shaba, Malawi prison authority’s spokesman, said this is not the first time prisoners were pardoned due to the virus.

“Recently, the president pardoned more than 3,000 prisoners through the Justice and Accountability project,” Shaba told Anadolu Agency via telephone.

Victor Mhango, executive director for the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance, has welcomed the president’s effort, but said the number is too low.

As of Thursday, the country has registered 4,912 cases, 37,746 recoveries and 153 deaths.

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