Iran will temporarily release 54,000 people from prisons as officials struggle to contain the rapid spread of the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. Iran has reported 77 deaths, one of the highest confirmed death tolls outside of China. It has also reported 2,336 positive cases. The ministry is also activating a nationwide team of 300,000 health workers and specialists, Deputy Health Minister Ali Reza Reisy told Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency.The country has come under pressure to take more action against the virus after Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain reported coronavirus cases with links to the Iranian city of Qom, where several holy sites are regularly visited by large crowds.

After weeks of refusing to restrict visits to the sites, the government on Wednesday said that those trying to leave Qom would be quarantined if they show symptoms of the virus, including a fever. Qom University of Medical Science’s Deputy Dean Ali Abrazi told state-run media that medical teams would be taking temperatures of those trying to leave the city. He also said the university was building a field hospital to tackle the outbreak.People in Iran are among those in many countries panic-buying goods in case the outbreak worsens. The country is facing a shortage of hand sanitizers, as demand for the products soar in the sanctions-hit nation. Mahdi Shah-Moradi, a board member of Iran’s National Medical Equipment Producers’ Association, said the country has increased its production capacity of alcohol, a major ingredient in sanitizer, since the outbreak, but th logistics had made getting more products to people difficult.The coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has now spread to all continents, except for Antarctica, killing more than 3,000 people and infecting more than 90,000.