The Iranian Ministry of Health reported 49 new deaths from COVID-19 disease on Sunday, the highest death toll in 24 hours since the start of the country’s new coronavirus epidemic.
“At least 194 of our compatriots who fell ill from COVID-19 have died,” Iranian health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said during a televised press conference.
The epidemic of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in Iran is one of the deadliest outside of China, where the virus appeared at the end of last year.
Jahanpour added that 743 new infections have also been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of cases to 6,566 in the 31 Iranian provinces.
With 1,805 infections, the capital Tehran is still part of the province with the most cases, added the spokesman.
Prepared for a dark Nowruz
Tehran’s report, Reza Sayah, of FRANCE 24, said that the Iranians were doing as best they could, as the country, already grappling with the effects of severe US sanctions, is facing a new crisis. “The vast majority of the people we see here in Iran are dealing with this epidemic in a civil and cooperative manner. Of course, they are worried, but they help each other, they take precautionary measures, they do not go to social gatherings, they do their best in a civil manner, “said Sayaf.
Iran has imposed travel restrictions on 15 provinces, said Sayah. Schools and universities were closed until the end of the Persian New Year celebrations in early April, early April.
“In less than two weeks, it’s Nowruz, the Persian New Year, perhaps the most important and popular national holiday when Iranians get together and socialize with family and friends,” said Sayaf. “It will not happen as usual, and it is another blow to this country which has experienced many crises in the past two years.”
Outside Tehran, the situation in the provinces has continued to deteriorate, with Jahanpour claiming that 685 cases have been detected in and around Qom, the holy Shiite city south of Tehran where the country’s first cases have been reported.
He added that the number of cases was “growing rapidly” in Isfahan, a popular tourist destination, where 564 people were now infected with the virus.
Iran Air suspends flights to Europe
Iran Air announced on Sunday that all flights to Europe will be suspended until further notice.
The statement released by the company did not mention the new coronavirus epidemic as the reason for the measure, citing only “restrictions” imposed by European authorities for “unknown reasons”.
According to several specialized websites, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on 3 February banned Iran Air planes from European airspace, namely an Airbus A321-200 and two Airbus A330-200 which had not undergone the necessary upgrades for authorization to fly in Europe.
On March 2, Sweden announced that it was temporarily suspending Iran Air’s flight permits on the advice of health officials who said Tehran “did not control” the new epidemic of coronavirus on its soil.
The Iranian carrier operates flights to several European destinations, including Paris, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Vienna and Rome.
Saudi Arabia encloses predominantly Shi’a province
Across the Persian Gulf, the Iranian army, Saudi Arabia, has imposed a temporary lockdown on its eastern province of Qatif, home to the kingdom’s marginalized Shiite population, to prevent the spread of the virus.
Saudi authorities said on Sunday that 11 cases of coronavirus had been recorded in the eastern province. “Since the 11 positive cases recorded for the new coronavirus come from Qatif … it has been decided … to temporarily suspend the entry and exit of Qatif,” the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a press release published by the official Saudi press agency. .
The move risks stirring resentment at Qatif, which was a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated Saudi government and the country’s Shia minorities who complain of discrimination, accuses the government.
Saudi authorities previously said the infected were either in Iran or interacting with people who have visited the Islamic Republic, which is home to the main Shia holy places.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)