Iran reports new surge in coronavirus cases

Published March 1, 2020
TEHRAN: A couple wearing masks pictured in a bazaar on Saturday.—Reuters
TEHRAN: A couple wearing masks pictured in a bazaar on Saturday.—Reuters

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday reported a surge in new coronavirus cases as the number of deaths jumped to 43, but it dismissed as “rumours” a report the real toll was much higher.

Since it announced its first deaths from COVID-19, Iran has scrambled to bring the outbreak under control, shutting schools, suspending cultural and sporting events and halting meetings of the cabinet and parliament.

The health ministry on Saturday reported nine new deaths and a 53 per cent jump in infections over the previous 24 hours, taking the overall totals to 43 deaths among 593 cases.

That was the highest number of new cases for a single day since Feb 19, when Iran announced its first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrimages.

Citing unnamed sources in Iran’s health system, the BBC’s Persian-language service said on Friday that at least 210 people had died in the COVID-19 outbreak.

Most of the dead were in Qom or Tehran.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour accused foreign media of spreading misinformation about the outbreak.

Fear of the virus is palpable on the streets of Tehran, which have been less crowded than usual as people apparently stayed at home.

Traffic was flowing more freely than normal in the capital on Saturday morning, when it usually chokes the streets at the start of the working week.

The office of Tehran’s governor announced a reduction in working hours in a bid to reduce the chances of the virus spreading, state television reported.

Shops have been struggling to meet demand as people stock up on bleach, face masks as well as non-perishable food.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2020

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