Officials call for people’s cooperation to contain outbreak
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei lauded on Thursday “invaluable” efforts being made by Iran’s Health Ministry to fight a coronavirus outbreak.
In a video message, Ayatollah Khamenei expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to Health Minister Saeid Namaki and his colleagues as well as the country’s entire medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, for their hard work to contain COVID-19, as the novel coronavirus is called.
“Your work is invaluable. It both enhances the value of the medical and nursing community in the society — something which has already come about — and, more importantly, it will bring you divine reward,” he said.
The Leader further wished the country’s health care system success in the fight against the epidemic, expressing hope that the “difficult and momentous task” will not become prolonged, and that the “malicious virus will be uprooted as soon as possible.”
President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday called on the Iranian people to “refrain from unnecessary travel” and adhere to health recommendations in order to help bring the virus under control and weather “this dangerous situation.”
Death toll rises
The Health Ministry on Friday reported eight new deaths from coronavirus, taking the overall toll to 34, as the number of infections jumped again.
An additional 143 cases have been detected over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of confirmed infections to 388, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.
He said the average age of those killed by the virus and the illness it brings is over 60.
“All organizations are trying their best to combat this virus,” Jahanpour said.
It is the highest number of new cases for a single day since Iran announced its first confirmed infections on February 19 in the holy shrine city of Qom.
Among the new cases, 64 were in the capital Tehran, while the number of provinces hit by the outbreak rose to 24, Jahanpour said.
The vast majority of infections were in three provinces: Tehran, 128, Qom, 88, and Gilan, 65, according to a map published by the official IRNA news agency citing Health Ministry figures.
One of Iran's seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, who was seen coughing, sweating, and wheezing across televised interviews before acknowledging he was infected, are among several senior officials who have been infected.
Iran has the highest death toll from the virus outside China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
Iran is the only country in the Persian Gulf region that has reported deaths from the coronavirus, which has spread from China, but people have been infected in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.
Saudi Arabia has reported no infections and has tightened travel restrictions to try to prevent it spreading across its borders.
Riyadh on Thursday took the unprecedented decision to close off the holiest sites in Islam to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan.
IRNA said Thursday Iran has banned Chinese citizens from entering the country.
Cases likely to spike
In his brief remarks from Tehran, Jahanpour cautioned the number of cases would likely further spike as Iran now has 15 laboratories testing samples.
Iran had already canceled Friday prayers in the capitals of 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces because of the outbreak, including in Tehran and the holy cities of Qom and Mashhad.
The health minister announced on Friday the closure of all schools for three days from Saturday.
“Based on assessments it was felt that there was a need for closing all the schools in the country and for this reason all the schools in the country will be closed for three days starting from tomorrow,” Namaki said.
Universities are to remain closed another week.
“We have a relatively difficult week ahead...as we see the trend, the main peak of the disease will be in the next week and coming days,” Namaki said.
Assadollah Abbasi, the spokesman for Parliament’s Presiding Board, said Friday the legislature will be closed until further notice.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei called for people's “urgent and effective” cooperation for the next weeks.
He said citizens need to remain calm and “act shrewdly” to help the government overcome the crisis,
In the city of Mashhad, at the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH). Cleaners fogged disinfectant across surfaces that the faithful kiss and touch as workers installed hand sanitizers.
Trucks sprayed down streets and sidewalks in the holy city of Qom, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak.
The Defense Ministry has launched the production line of disinfectants and hygienic masks.
The ministry’s subsidiary organizations are producing at least 20,000 liters of disinfectants and 20,000 filtered masks per day.
AFP, AP, Reuters, and Press TV contributed to this story.