Iran reports 7 new virus deaths as another senior government official infected

Source: Iran reports 7 new virus deaths as another senior government official infected | The Times of Israel

Death toll in Islamic Republic at 26; security official announces he tested positive, following deputy health minister and MP; hardest-hit China, South Korea count 938 new cases

A nurse cares for patients in a ward dedicated for people infected with the coronavirus, at Forqani Hospital in Qom, Iran, Feb. 26, 2020 (Mohammad Mohsenzadeh/Mizan News Agency via AP )

A nurse cares for patients in a ward dedicated for people infected with the coronavirus, at Forqani Hospital in Qom, Iran, Feb. 26, 2020 (Mohammad Mohsenzadeh/Mizan News Agency via AP )

Iran on Thursday announced seven additional deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus, as the head of the country’s parliament national security and foreign policy committee announced he had been infected.

Mujtaba ZulNour, said in a social media video that he had tested positive and had entered quarantine. The development came after the Islamic Republic’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, and MP Mouhmoud Sadeghi, also caught the virus.

Iran now has the highest death toll from the virus — 26 dead from among 245 confirmed cases — outside of China, where the outbreak began. That is up from the previously reported 19 death and 139 cases.

The epicenter in the Middle East’s most-affected country appears to be in the holy Shiite city of Qom, where the faithful in reverence reach out to kiss and touch a famous shrine.

Ali Hashem علي هاشم

@alihashem_tv

Iran’s health minister stated that Friday prayers are to be halted this week in provinces witnessing outbreak

Ali Hashem علي هاشم

@alihashem_tv

Head of ’s parliament national security and foreign policy committee Mujtaba ZulNour announced via social media that he tested positive for and that he’s in quarantine

Embedded video

The tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait announced a sudden jump to 43 cases from 26 on Thursday as well, all linked to travelers who recently came from Iran.

As the worst-hit areas of Asia continued to struggle with a viral epidemic, with hundreds more cases reported Thursday in South Korea and China, worries about infection and containment spread across the globe.

For the first time, the coronavirus has caused more new cases outside China, the epicenter of the outbreak, than inside the country. With Brazil on Wednesday confirming Latin America’s first case, the virus has reached every continent but Antarctica.

The United States, which has 60 cases, hasn’t been spared the fear that has swept Asia, Europe and the Mideast. US President Donald Trump declared that the country was “very, very ready” for whatever threat the coronavirus brings, and he put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the country’s response.

As the epidemic expanded geographically, worries about the COVID-19 illness multiplied.

“The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

A worker wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea, February 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Though the virus has pushed into countries both rich and poor, its arrival in places with little ability to detect, respond and contain it brought worry that it could run rampant there and spread easily elsewhere.

Major gatherings have been eyed warily, with schools closing, churches moving services online, food deliveries booming and many business conferences and sporting events canceled. The Summer Olympics begin July 24 in Tokyo, and Japan’s top government spokesman said Olympics preparations would proceed and the games would go on as planned.

South Korea reported 505 more cases Thursday, bringing its total to 1,766. Most of the new cases were in the country’s fourth-biggest city, Daegu, where the outbreak has hit hardest and the national government has mobilized public health tools to help the region’s overwhelmed medical system.

But there are signs the virus is spreading further in South Korea, with 55 cases reported so far in the capital, Seoul, and 58 in the second-largest city, Busan. The country on Thursday also confirmed its 13th death; most of them are still in and near Daegu.

People wait in line to buy face masks from a store at the Dongseongro shopping district in Daegu on February 27, 2020. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

China reported 433 new cases along with 29 additional deaths. Thursday’s updates bring mainland China’s totals to 78,497 cases, and 2,744 deaths.

Of the new cases, 383 were in the epicenter of the city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December. Wuhan also accounted for 19 of the new deaths.

South Korea followed China in expressing dismay at travel restrictions imposed by other countries.

About 40 nations and regions so far have prohibited or restricted South Korean visitors, according to Lee Tae-ho, Seoul’s second vice minister of foreign affairs, who described such moves as excessive and said his government has been effectively utilizing its “world-best quarantine capabilities.”

But calls have grown inside South Korea for expanding its own entry ban, which currently covers only visitors from China’s Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital.

China has put Wuhan and nearby cities on lock down, many airlines have reduced Chinese flights, and many places have increased monitoring of arrivals from China, all resulting in far few Chinese arrivals around the globe. Lee said the inflow of Chinese into South Korea has been reduced by more than 80%.

In Europe, an expanding cluster of more than 440 cases in northern Italy was eyed as a source for transmissions.

Saudi Arabia said early Thursday it would ban tourists from places with confirmed outbreaks, including pilgrims coming for the Umrah or to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

Muslim pilgrims perform the tawaf-e-ifadha circling of the Kaaba, during the annual Haj pilgrimage on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, August 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Iraq announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the capital Baghdad on Thursday, taking nationwide infections to six and raising concerns about the capacity of the dilapidated health system to respond.

Baghdad announced sweeping measures late Wednesday to try to contain the spread of the virus, ordering the closure of schools and universities, cafes, cinemas and other public spaces until March 7. It also banned travel to or from some of the worst affected countries, including China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Shortly after Trump spoke about US efforts on the virus, health officials identified what could be the first community spread US case. The patient in California was not known to have traveled to a country with an outbreak or had ties to a known patient. Most of the previously confirmed US cases had traveled to China, were evacuated from the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship, or were family members of those cases.

 

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