Iran raises death toll from virus to 54

Iran raises death toll from virus to 54

Islamic Republic adds 11 deaths and a whopping 385 new cases to its official toll, but high death percentage suggests true number of infections higher still

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk on a sidewalk in western Tehran, Iran, February 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Pedestrians wearing face masks walk on a sidewalk in western Tehran, Iran, February 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s health ministry on Sunday raised the nationwide death toll from the new coronavirus to 54 as the number of infected cases jumped overnight to 978 people.

The ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said new cases were confirmed in a number of cities, including Mashhad, which is home to Iran’s most important Shiite shrine that attracts pilgrims from across the region. Calls by Iran’s civilian government to clerics to close such shrines to to the public have not been uniformly followed. The shrine in Mashhad is among those that have remained open.

The new figures represent 11 more deaths than reported on Saturday and a whopping 385 new cases of infections. The new numbers, however, bring down the percentage of deaths to infections from 20% to around 5.5%. Still, that is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections may also be much higher.

Jahanpour said in his daily briefing that the number of cases is “still inclining” across Iran.

Medics flash the victory sign in a ward dedicated for people infected with the coronavirus, at Forqani Hospital in Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, February 26, 2020. (Mohammad Mohsenzadeh/Mizan News Agency via AP)

Also on Sunday, Iran’s state broadcaster said all flights to the city of Rasht, the capital of the northern Gilan province, had been suspended. It gave no reasons why. The area of Gilan has some of Iran’s highest number of infections after the capital, Tehran, and the holy city of Qom, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the country.

The illness, known as COVID-19, has infected at least seven government officials in Iran, including one of its vice presidents and a senior health ministry official.

Iran has said it is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the virus behind the outbreak.

Of the more than 1,100 cases in the Middle East, the majority trace back to the Islamic Republic.

The virus has infected more than 86,000 people worldwide and caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China. Iran has the world’s highest death toll outside of China.

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