The Latest: Turkey to release prisoners to ease crowding

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


— Turkey to release prisoners to ease overcrowding, slow virus spread

— New Zealand PM says country appears over worst virus, but no time to let up vigilance

— India PM extends lockdown to May 3, with some easing possible

— Singapore reports 386 new cases for its biggest one-day jump

— Japan sees 390 new cases of the coronavirus as Tokyo residents stock up for monthlong shutdown

— South Korea reports 27 new virus cases, fewer than 100 for 13th straight day

— Americans should receive stimulus direct deposits by Wednesday


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s parliament has approved legislation that will free some 90,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding in prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, that doesn’t include journalists and activists, who will remain behind bars.

The legislation, approved early on Tuesday, reduces some sentences and places 45,000 convicts who are currently serving terms in open prisons, under temporary house arrest.

Prisoners convicted of drug-related charges, sexual abuse, murder, domestic abuse and terrorism were however, kept out of the scope of the measure designed to reduce the country’s more than 280,000-strong prison population. Dozens of journalists, activists opposition politicians and others will remain incarcerated because many of them have been imprisoned on terror-related charges.

Opposition parties and human rights groups have criticized the measure that was passed with the votes of the ruling party and its nationalist allies.

“Those convicted in unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws are … now condemned to face the prospect of infection from this deadly disease,” said Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum.

As well as reducing some prison terms, the legislation releases women with young children, the sick and prisoners above the age of 65.

The prison releases were expected to begin this week.

On Monday, the justice minister announced that 17 prisoners in open prisons were infected and three of them died.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country appears to be over the worst of its coronavirus outbreak but it is no time to let up on strict lockdown measures.

The country recorded just 17 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,366. There were also four new deaths, the worst day yet on that measure, bringing the total number of deaths to nine.

New Zealand lawmakers will decide early next week what will happen after an initial four-week lockdown ends on April 22.


As the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak hit New Zealand, the operators of the country’s Burger King restaurants have been placed into bankruptcy proceedings.

Also, one of the country’s largest media companies has announced plans to shed 200 staff.

New Zealand has been in a strict lockdown for nearly three weeks and all restaurants, including those serving fast food, have been temporarily closed. Company receivers KordaMentha said Tuesday they hope to sell dozens of Burger King restaurants to a new franchise owner and get them reopened after the lockdown ends.

NZME, which runs a number of radio stations and newspapers, announced to the New Zealand stock market it is reducing its workforce by 15% through layoffs and by not filling vacant positions. NZME stock is down by more than 60% over the past year.

Earlier this month, German company Bauer Media announced it was closing its New Zealand operation and would no longer publish many of the country’s weekly magazines.


NEW DELHI — India’s prime minister announces extension to the country’s lockdown for 1.3 billion people until May 3, but says there may be some easing in restrictions in people’s movement after one week to help the poor daily wage earners and those working in agriculture sector.

In an address to the nation on radio and television on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the lockdown will be eased only in areas which do not show any deterioration in the spread of coronavirus.

He said India has paid a big economic price by imposing the lockdown, but it was much better placed than many other countries as it had acted quickly imposing travel and quarantine restrictions even before the first death was reported in the country. He said the lockdown and social distancing among people have worked in their favor.

The first phase of India’s three-week lockdown ends Tuesday with more than 9,000 positive cases and 339 deaths so far with people restricted to their homes for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies.

India has sealed hundreds of residential districts as containment zones across the country, ramping up a low rate of testing. Modi said all-out efforts are being made to ensure that no new hot spots emerged in the country.

The Prime Minister said that there was a consensus amongst India’s states on extension of the lockdown by another two weeks. He said there was no shortage of medicines and foodgrain in the country and promised an efficient supply chain to the people.

The Health Ministry said on Monday that no new positive cases have been reported in 25 districts in 15 states for the past 14 days.


SINGAPORE — Singapore has reported 386 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily jump, to raise its tally to 2,918.

Most of the new cases are linked to foreign workers living in crowded dormitories, that have become a headache for the government. Health authorities also reported a ninth death in a statement late Monday.

The tiny state of nearly six million people has tightened precautions with a four-week “circuit breaker,” shutting down nonessential businesses and schools until May 4.

It has quarantined tens of thousands of foreign workers in their dorms and moved some to alternative sites to reduce crowding. Over 200,000 Asian migrant workers live in 43 registered dormitories that house up to 20 men per room, with shared toilets, cooking and other facilities.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli wrote on Facebook late Monday that the remaining three weeks of partial lockdown will form “a critical w(backslash)indow that will determine if we can successfully flatten the curve, prevent large-scale community spread, and save our loved ones”.


TOKYO— Japan had 390 new cases of the coronavirus for a domestic total of 7,645 as of Monday, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The country, which separately had 712 cases from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year, now has a combined total of 8,357 cases, with 121 deaths.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures deemed at highest risks of the coronavirus infection explosion. He has asked the people to stay at home and keep social distancing at as much as 80%,

However, remote working is slow to come at many companies and many people were still seen queuing up at grocery stores and crowding shopping arcades in some areas of downtown Tokyo to stock up on food and other daily necessities during the month-long state of emergency.


BEIJING — China on Tuesday reported 89 new virus cases, 86 of them among travelers arriving from abroad, but no new deaths.

Across the country, 1,170 people remain under treatment for COVID-19, while another 1,077 people are suspected to have the disease or have tested positive but are showing no symptoms.

The country’s total death toll stood at 3,341 out of 82,249 cases.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 27 fresh cases of the new coronavirus, the 13th day in a row of below 100, as infections continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu and nearby towns.

Figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national totals to 10,564 infections and 222 virus-related deaths.

The KCDC says at least 940 of the cases were linked to passengers arriving from overseas, with most of the cases detected in the past three weeks.

South Korean Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun during an anti-virus meeting on Tuesday called officials to provide stronger support for scientists’ efforts to develop vaccines and treatments for the virus, which he said would be a boon for the country’s biomedical industry.


WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he expects that more than 80 million Americans should have tax rebates directly deposited into the bank accounts by Wednesday.

Many Americans qualify for tax credits approved as part of legislation designed to boost the economy as the country responds to the new coronavirus.

Under the program, single filers received $1,200 and joint filers $2,400, though it phases out for higher incomes.

For those who don’t get their money by Wednesday, Mnuchin said the IRS will have a website available that would allow people to plug in information and allow for their direct deposit to take place quickly.

Mnuchin said Social Security beneficiaries don’t have to do anything. The money will be directly deposited in their bank account.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron announced the extension of France’s strict lockdown until May 11, on his third televised address to the nation on the virus crisis from the Elysee palace.

France has been under lockdown since March 17.

Macron said he sees “hopeful signs” as the spreading of the virus in the country appears to be stabilizing. But he urged the French to keep respecting strict confinement rules for the moment.

Starting from May 11, schools will reopen “progressively”, he said. Restaurants, cafes, hotels, cinemas, museums and concert halls will remain closed and no big gatherings will be allowed until mid-July, he added.

Macron acknowledged “failures and deficiencies” in a reference to the lack of masks and other equipment.

As a response to the criticism that the country has not conducted enough coronavirus tests, he promised that by May 11, all those who have symptoms will be able to get tested.

French health authorities have reported Monday a drop in numbers of people in intensive care for the fifth straight day.

The country registered 574 deaths over the past 24 hours in hospitals and nursing homes, bringing the total number of deaths from the COVID-19 to 14,967 since the outbreak began in France.


UNITED NATIONS — The International Monetary Fund has approved $500 million to cancel six months of debt payments for 25 of the world’s most impoverished countries so they can help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

IMF Executive Director Kristalina Georgieva issued a statement Monday saying the executive board approved the immediate debt service relief to Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Togo, and Yemen.

She said the money will come from the IMF’s revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, which will use recent pledges of $185 million from the United Kingdom and $100 million from Japan. She urged other donors to help replenish the trust’s resources.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and a group of 165 former global leaders and prominent global figures have urged the suspension of debt repayments for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries so they can use their scant resources for the coronavirus crisis.


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