Iran reports largest spike in coronavirus fatalities as 147 more die

Iranian health officials have urged the public to avoid travel and crowded places, but many seem to be ignoring the warnings. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 18 March 2020

Iran reports largest spike in coronavirus fatalities as 147 more die

  • The rise in deaths comes as the number of cases continues to grow each day
  • ealth officials have urged the public to avoid travel and crowded places

TEHRAN: Iran reported its single biggest jump in deaths from the new coronavirus on Wednesday, saying that another 147 had died in a nearly 15 percent spike that raises the death toll to 1,135 people nationwide.
It marks the biggest 24-hour rise in deaths since officials first acknowledged cases of the virus in Iran in mid-February.
The rise in deaths comes as the number of cases continues to grow each day, with some 17,361 people having been infection nationwide, according to a briefing Wednesday by Iran’s deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi.
The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Nowruz, a normally joyous holiday that begins on Friday. Health officials have urged the public to avoid travel and crowded places. But many seem to be ignoring the warnings, raising the risk of further outbreaks.
Some food markets in the capital, Tehran, were still packed on Wednesday, and highways were crowded with traffic as families traveled between cities. Iran also announced it would close mosques for communal Friday prayers for a third consecutive week.
Raisi criticized people for not adhering to the warnings, saying on national television the virus is very serious. “This is not a good situation at all,” he said as he implored people to stay home.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday defended his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the face of of widespread criticism that officials acted too slowly and may have even covered up initial cases before infections rapidly spread across the country.
In a speech to his Cabinet, Rouhani said the government was “straightforward” with the nation, saying it announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on Feb. 19.
“We spoke to people in an honest way. We had no delay,” he added.
The government has come under heavy criticism for what has been seen as a slow and inadequate response. For weeks, government officials implored clerics to shut down crowded holy shrines to stymie the spread of the virus. The government finally closed the shrines this week.
“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it,” Rouhani said.


Palestinian leaders ‘open to talks with Israel via Moscow’

Updated 03 June 2020

Palestinian leaders ‘open to talks with Israel via Moscow’

  • We trust President Putin to help stop annexation of parts of occupied West Bank, foreign minister says

AMMAN: Palestinian leaders would be open to a resumption of talks with Israel if they were brokered by Russia, Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said on Tuesday.

“We trust President Vladimir Putin and are sure that such a meeting would bear fruit, and succeed in getting us back to the talks, as well as stopping the Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank,” he said.

Al-Maliki said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had twice derailed Russian plans to hold discussions in Moscow. “Palestine is willing to have talks with Israel via video conferencing and under Russian auspices,” he said. “The Palestinian side will look into the idea if Russia felt it was feasible,” he said.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Arab News that Moscow had been engaging separately with both the White House and Ramallah about stopping or postponing Israel’s controversial annexation plans, which Netanyahu has threatened to implement on July 1.

“The sticking point appears to be around whether Trump’s plan … has to be at the center of the discussions. It is not enough to agree on the channel of the talks, be it Russia or another one. The substance of the talks is important.”

Zalzberg said opponents of annexation were waiting for Palestinian leaders to propose their own peace plan and agenda for talks, and were frustrated that neither was forthcoming.

Efforts are also underway for Israel’s new defense and foreign ministers to meet key Arab leaders including King Abdullah of Jordan, to persuade them that annexation would damage the chances of peace.