Coronavirus World Live Tracker: Turkey Releases Prisoners

Turkey’s Parliament passes law to release tens of thousands of prisoners.

Turkey’s Parliament passed a law early Tuesday that would allow for the release of tens of thousands of prisoners to protect detainees from being infected by the coronavirus.

The bill will allow for the temporary release of about 45,000 prisoners, but it excluded those jailed on terrorism charges, according to the Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-run news agency.

The bill was supported by 279 lawmakers, while 51 voted against it, according to Anadolu. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, the Justice and Development Party, supported the bill, as did its nationalist allies.

Aside from those jailed on terrorism charges, prisoners detained for sex offenses, drug offenses and first-degree murder were also excluded.

The law has been criticized by opposition parties for excluding those jailed on terrorism charges, which include journalists and politicians swept up in a crackdown following a coup attempt in 2016.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul on Monday said there were 17 cases of the coronavirus in five prisons, and that three inmates had died from the virus. Turkey has recorded 56,956 coronavirus cases and 1,198 deaths.

In the United States and around the world, outbreaks have spread quickly in prisons, where social distancing is impossible. In response, some prisons have released inmates to contain outbreaks, though critics say officials have been too slow to act.

The doctor paused before banging on the front gate, gesturing to his companions in hazmat suits and masks to stand back so they would not be the first thing the home’s occupants saw.

“This is very sensitive, very difficult for our society,” said Dr. Wissam Cona of the provincial Health Department in Najaf, Iraq. The father of the family at this home had begged him not to come with a retinue of health workers, saying he felt ashamed in front of his neighbors.

For Iraq, one of the biggest obstacles for officials fighting the coronavirus is the stigma associated with illness and quarantine. It runs so deep that people avoid being tested, prevent family members who want tests from having them and delay seeking medical help until they are catastrophically ill.

It may also help explain why the number of confirmed cases in Iraq is relatively low. Iraq had recorded only 1,352 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Monday. Iran, with roughly twice Iraq’s population, has more than 71,000.

“It is true we have cases that are hidden, and that is because people don’t want to come forward and they are afraid of the quarantine and isolation,” said Dr. Hazim al-Jumaili, a deputy health minister.

The stigma attached to illness and quarantine in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries largely reflects cultural and religious beliefs. But it also involves an ingrained distrust of the government, historical experience and the fear that given the ragged state of Iraq’s health care system, going to the hospital could be fatal.

“Some believe the virus means that God is displeased with them, or maybe it is a punishment for a sin so they don’t want others to see that they are sick,” said Dr. Emad Abdul Razzak, a consulting psychiatrist at Iraq’s Health Ministry.

Hospitals in coronavirus hot spots in the United States are scrambling to address a shortage of medical professionals to help care for patients, as the number of cases continues to grow and as maintaining a full supply of health care workers, who are themselves falling ill, is challenging.

Foreign health workers have been lining up to take jobs at American hospitals, but many are running into roadblocks. Some are having difficulty securing appointments for visas at U.S. consulates overseas that are hobbled by skeletal staffing. Others are running into travel restrictions imposed in the midst of the pandemic.

Still others are already working in the United States, but under the terms of their visas cannot leave the states they are in to work in cities heavily affected by the coronavirus.

“The protective gear and ventilators are slowly but surely getting to the system. But if the number of cases goes up dramatically, we will have equipment and no one to operate it,” said Ron Hoppe, chief executive officer of WorldWide HealthStaff Solutions, which matches medical professionals with facilities across the United States.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, demand for registered nurses in the United States was projected to grow from 2.9 to 3.4 million between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The great supply and demand imbalance that existed before is being laid bare by the crisis,” Mr. Hoppe said.

Sebastian Modak, Alissa J. Rubin, William J. Broad, Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal, Ben Dooley and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.

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