Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday halted the release of hundreds of prisoners who were supposed to be set free in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus in the country's overcrowded jails, local media reported.
Several high courts, including the Islamabad High Court, last week, had ordered the release of over 500 under-trial prisoners and those already sentenced for their involvement in petty crimes, to reduce burden on the jails.
"Coronavirus is a serious issue but the decisions taken in haste and fear won't work," Chief Justice of Supreme Court Gulzar Ahmed remarked, according to local broadcaster Geo News.
The top court declared that the high courts did not take the complainants' view into consideration while ordering the release of the prisoners.
The two-member bench also barred all the high courts, and the provincial governments from passing any such order.
It summoned the concerned government officials to hear their view on the matter, and adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.
Pakistan on Monday reported two other deaths from the virus, bringing the tally to 18 in the country, an official said. The new deaths were reported in the southern Sindh -- one of the worst hit provinces -- Dr. Azra Pechuhu, the provincial health minister, confirmed.
There are 1,625 confirmed COVID-19 patients in the country with 99 new cases over the last 24 hours.
According to official numbers, 593 cases have been confirmed in the most populous province of Punjab, 508 in the Sindh province, 195 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 128 in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, 144 in Balochistan, and six in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
A total of 32 patients successfully recovered and were discharged from hospitals across the country while seven patients are in critical condition.
Around 27% of the total cases in the country were the result of local transmission of virus, while the remaining 73% patients have a history of traveling abroad, mainly the embattled-Iran, according to Zafar Mirza, the adviser to prime minister on health affairs.
The novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China in December. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.
More than 34,000 people have died of the virus globally, with nearly 725,000 cases confirmed worldwide.
The data shows the virus has spread to 177 countries, and over 152,300 have recovered so far.
Despite the rising number of cases, most people who get infected suffer only mild symptoms and make a recovery.