Amid novel Coronavirus pandemic, US state of California plans to release about 3,500 non-violent inmates early to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 illness, according to an officials on Tuesday.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said that the first group of inmates released will be those with less then 30 days to serve, followed by those with fewer than 60 days of their sentences left.

Last week,  US Attorney General Bill Barr said he told federal prisons to free some inmates to lessen the impact of the pandemic, with possibly 2,000 inmates eligible.

“We do not take these new measures lightly,” Ralph Diaz, secretary of the California corrections agency, Barr said in a statement.

In the early hours on Wednesday, the total US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 4,000, more than double the number from three days earlier, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Authorities said the early releases will increase both capacity anspace at the state’s prisons where 22 employees and four inmates have tested positive for the virus.

The prisons have instituted other measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including mandatory medical screenings for anyone entering the institutions and suspension of visitation.

Inmates are being offered additional free phone calls to their loved ones to compensate the loss of their visitation rights.

The worldwide number of officially confirmed fatalities from the deadly coronavirus has risen to 41,07.

More than 828,240 declared cases have been registered in 186 countries and territories since the pandemic broke out in China in December. Of these cases, at least 164,900 are now considered recovered.

President Donald Trump administration has already barred travel from major US economic partners including China and the European Union as part of a global effort to halt the spread of the virus.

(With inputs from agency)