President: Enemy seeks to paralyze Iran through ‘fearmongering’
Iran’s Health Ministry on Tuesday urged Iranians to stay at home as death toll of those infected by the new coronavirus reached 15.
“It will be safer for people to stay at home,” Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.
He confirmed three new deaths and 34 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall tally to 15 deaths and 95 cases.
Jahanpour said 16 of the new cases were confirmed in Qom, while nine were in Tehran, and two each in Alborz, Gilan, and Mazandaran.
Two of the newly reported deaths were of elderly women in the central province of Markazi, and the other was a patient in the northern province of Alborz.
"One was an 87-year-old woman with a history of cardiovascular, pulmonary, liver, and kidney diseases who passed away after being hospitalized for two days," Abbas Nikravesh, the head of Saveh city's medical university, told IRNA.
The other was an 82-year-old with "serious blood and cardiovascular diseases" and died after being hospitalized for a day, he added, noting that she had a history of visiting Qom as her children live there.
According to the Health Ministry, most of the deaths and infections outside Qom are among people who have recently visited the holy city.
Jahanpour also confirmed that Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has tested positive for the virus.
Harirchi himself posted an online video saying he had the virus and that he had quarantined himself at his home. He promised that authorities would bring the virus under control.
The virus appeared to be spreading to new parts of Iran, as one new case was also reported in each of the provinces of Fars and Khorasan Razavi, as well as Qeshm Island.
Despite being Iran's epicenter of the outbreak, Qom has yet to be quarantined.
Religious events the revered Hazrat Masoumeh (PBUH) holy shrine in Qom, Iran's epicenter of the outbreak, have been put on hold while teams were deployed to disinfect it.
Photos published by local news agencies showed masked men in blue uniforms spraying disinfectant on walls and objects inside the shrine.
Iran has been scrambling to contain COVID-19 since Wednesday last week when it announced the first two deaths in Qom, a center for Islamic studies and pilgrims that attracts scholars from abroad.
The government has pledged to be transparent after being accused of covering up the outbreak, dismissing a lawmaker's claim the toll could be as high as 50 in Qom alone.
In other provinces including Tehran, teams have been disinfecting underground train carriages and municipal buses at night, according to reports.
Call for calm
President Hassan Rouhani called for calm, saying the outbreak was no worse than other epidemics that Iran has weathered.
"An uninvited and ominous guest can come anywhere, but we have to go past it," Rouhani said on state television.
"We went past the tough type B influenza that has killed 16,000 in America this year and more than 100 in Iran," he added. "This coronavirus is no tougher than that."
“We will get through corona,” Rouhani said. “We will get through the virus.”
Speaking at a national committee set up to fight the virus, Rouhani said instructions issued by committee must be obeyed by all.
He warned against “enemy plots” that are aimed at bringing the country to a standstill through “fearmongering.”
Ali Akbar Velayati, the head of Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital, said on Monday that the task of responding to the novel coronavirus is no harder than that of tackling an influenza epidemic in the country, which has been brought under control.
“Given the measures being taken to control the disease, we will have better news in the coming days and there is no reason for concern,” he said, assuring that there will soon be a decline in the spread of the epidemic and “the disease will be contained.”
The sight of Iranians wearing masks and gloves is now common in much of the country.
Sales of masks, disinfectant gels, and disposable gloves have soared in Tehran and other cities, with officials vowing to prevent hoarding and shortages by boosting production.
Iran has shut schools, universities, and cultural centers until the end of the week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The health minister said Monday that "the causes of coronavirus infections in Iran are people who have entered the country from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China", some of whom illegally.
Saeid Namaki has already said that one person who died of coronavirus in Qom was a businessman who had made several trips to China.
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people globally, causing around 2,700 deaths, mainly in China. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it.
AFP, Reuters, AP and Press TV contributed to this story.