Deaths spike in Iran, with to­tal at 1,135

Still, crowds surge be­fore cel­e­bra­tion of new year hol­i­day

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - Nation&world - BY NASSER KARIMI AND AYA BA­TRAWY

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Wed­nes­day re­ported its sin­gle big­gest jump in fa­tal­i­ties from the coro­n­avirus as another 147 peo­ple died, rais­ing the coun­try’s over­all toll to 1,135.

The nearly 15% spike in deaths — amid a to­tal of 17,361 con­firmed cases in Iran — marks the big­gest 24-hour rise in fa­tal­i­ties since Ira­nian of­fi­cials first ac­knowl­edged in­fec­tions of the virus in mid-Fe­bru­ary.

Even as the num­ber of cases grows, food mar­kets were still packed with shop­pers and high­ways were crowded as fam­i­lies trav­eled ahead of the Per­sian New Year, Nowruz, on Fri­day.

Deputy Health Min­is­ter Alireza Raisi urged the pub­lic to avoid travel and crowds, telling Ira­ni­ans the days ahead rep­re­sented two “golden weeks” to try slow the vi­ral out­break.

He crit­i­cized peo­ple for not ad­her­ing to the warn­ings to stay home. “This is not a good sit­u­a­tion at all,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani de­fended his gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the out­break in the face of wide­spread crit­i­cism that Iran acted too slowly and might even have cov­ered up ini­tial cases. He told his Cab­i­net the gov­ern­ment was be­ing straight­for­ward, say­ing it an­nounced the out­break as soon as it learned about it Feb. 19.

“We spoke to peo­ple in an hon­est way. We had no de­lay,” he added.

For weeks, of­fi­cials im­plored cler­ics to shut down crowded Shi­ite shrines to halt the spread of the virus. The gov­ern­ment was only able to close them this week.

Iran also said it would close mosques for com­mu­nal Fri­day prayers for a third con­sec­u­tive week. Other Mus­lim coun­tries, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia,


Masked min­is­ters at­tended a Cab­i­net meet­ing in Tehran, Iran, on Wed­nes­day. One health of­fi­cial crit­i­cized the pub­lic for not ad­her­ing to the warn­ings to stay home.

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