Iran virus deaths pass 4,000, but regime says number of new cases dropping

Khamenei calls on Iranians to pray at home during the upcoming Ramadan

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech, April 9, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech, April 9, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s health ministry on Thursday said 117 new deaths from the novel coronavirus took the total to 4,110 in one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

But ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the latest figures showed there was a downward trend in the number of new coronavirus infections.

“Today we are clearly seeing a decline in the number of new cases,” Jahanpour said in a televised news conference. “We have identified 1,634 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 66,220.”

The spokesman praised the people of Iran for following guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

“We owe the reduction in the number of cases of the disease to… our beloved people, as well as to the intervention of our colleagues in the health system,” said Jahanpour.

“In the past 24 hours we have lost 117 people. We have had a total of 4,110 deaths due to the COVID-19 disease.”

Iranian women, members of the paramilitary Basij organisation, make face masks and other protective items at a mosque in the capital Tehran, amid the coronavirus pandemic crisis, April 5, 2020. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran, which announced its first coronavirus cases on February 19, is by far the worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, according to official tolls.

But there has been speculation abroad that the real number of deaths and infections in the country could be higher. Opposition sources in the country have claimed that the real toll could be as much as four times higher.

In response to the health crisis, Iran shut schools and universities as well as cinemas, stadiums and holy Shiite Muslim shrines.

Authorities have repeatedly appealed to the public to refrain from gatherings, especially over the Persian New Year holidays that ended last week.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday flagged a gradual reopening of “low-risk” businesses within the next week.

But authorities have yet to specify which businesses qualify for the first phase of measures aimed at protecting Iran’s sanctions-hit economy.

The parliament, or Majles, convened on Tuesday for the first time since the outbreak forced its closure on February 25. At least 31 of the legislature’s 290 members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday called on Iranians to pray at home during the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“In the absence of public gatherings during Ramadan, such as prayers, speeches… which we are deprived of this year, we should not neglect worship, invocation and humility in our loneliness,” he said in a televised speech. “We need to create humility and supplication in our families and in our rooms.”

Ramadan is set to start in the last week of April this year.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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