Iranian Coronavirus Death Toll Rises To 43
By RFE/RL February 29, 2020
Iran's Health Ministry says nine people have died from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 43 amid 593 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Islamic republic.
Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour gave the new figure on February 29.
"We have had 205 new cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours", he said, while urging people to stay away from mass gatherings and limit their travel.
Iran has the highest death toll outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The BBC's Persian service said a count conducted by its unnamed sources in several hospitals suggested at least 210 people had died in the country as of late on February 27. The Health Ministry vehemently denied the report.
The rapid spread of the outbreak forced the cancellation of Friday Prayers in many mosques across the country.
Asadollah Abbasi, a spokesman of the parliamentary presidium, was quoted as saying on February 29 that five of 100 lawmakers in the Majlis, or parliament, had tested positive for the virus.
He said the other lawmakers will also be tested.
Iran's government spokesman will hold his weekly news conference online due to the outbreak, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported on February 29.
Iran has become the main hot spot of the virus in the Middle East, and the country's officials have been accused of hiding the true scale of the outbreak.
Authorities canceled Friday Prayers in Tehran and 22 provincial capitals in response to the looming pandemic, while the Health Ministry advised against all public events, such as weddings or funerals. Schools and universities, along with cultural gathering places such cinemas, theaters, and concert halls, have all been closed.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan said on February 29 it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In Bahrain, authorities threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn't been tested for the new coronavirus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks.
The tiny island state off the coast of Saudi Arabia has been hard-hit with cases and shut down some flights to halt the spread of the virus.
All of Bahrain's cases link back to Iran.
Qatar announced on February 29 its first coronavirus case, a Qatari citizen who was on an earlier evacuation flight from Iran.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced on February 29 it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states from Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus' spread. The council is a six-country group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Elsewhere, Pakistan confirmed two more cases of coronavirus on February 29, bringing the total number of positive cases to four since February 26, when the first two cases were reported in the country.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, has infected some 83,000 people in dozens of countries, causing 2,800 deaths. Most of the cases and deaths were reported in China, where the disease emerged in December.
The virus has now reached every continent except Antarctica.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, BBC, IRNA and ISNA
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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