Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Thursday ordered bail to 8,000 remand prisoners, being held for drug offences, as part of its efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Also Read - Mahinda Rajapaksa Calls For Unity to Fight Against Coronavirus in Sri Lanka

Lanka has been under a countrywide lockdown since March 20 to combat the deadly viral infection, which has claimed seven lives and infected 190 people. Also Read - On This Day: Sri Lanka Pip India to Win Maiden World T20 Title

According to human rights group, the country’s prisons are highly congested. There are around 26,000 inmates in Lankan jails, while the normal capacity is around 10,000. Also Read - Sri Lanka's First COVID-19 Patient Recovers, Discharged From Hospital

In a letter to the police chief on Thursday, the Attorney General said of the 13,000 remand prisoners, 8,000 held for drug-related offences be granted bail.

The Attorney General said he has been instructed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to release some of the remand prisoners depending on the nature of their offences.

The danger posed by the COVID-19 spread has been considered in terms of safety and good health of the remand prisoners, the letter stated.

The heads of the respective police stations need to be advised for close supervision of the released offenders, the Attorney General said.

Earlier this week, the Sri Lankan government released some 2,961 prisoners, serving sentences for minor offences, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, three inmates were killed and six others wounded in North Central Prison when they scuffled with guards and some tried to escape during a protest against new rules to control the pandemic.

The inmates protested after the government banned visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons.