Iran reports 97 new virus deaths, taking total to 611

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said yesterday that the COVID-19 has claimed 97 more lives, raising the country’s total to 611, as the number of confirmed cases jumped again.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that “1,365 fresh cases have been added to the number of confirmed infections in the past 24 hours”, bringing the total to 12,729.

Jahanpour told a televised news conference that more than 4,300 of those with confirmed infections had recovered so far.

Tehran province had the highest number of new cases with 347, followed by Isfahan with 155 and the northern region of Alborz with 134.

“Naturally, the number of confirmed cases will increase” even more as Iran steps up its laboratory sampling and tests, he said.

The outbreak in Iran is one of the deadliest outside of China, where the disease originated.

But Tehran’s markets were still crowded despite calls for people to stay at home, with many shopping ahead of the country’s New Year holidays which start on March 20.

The ministry said on Friday that the average age of those who died was 67. The youngest was a three-year-old leukaemia sufferer and the oldest 91.

Four times as many men as women died from the COVID-19.

But in some of Iran’s provinces alcohol poisoning was killing even more people than the virus.

At least 92 have died from drinking methanol after rumours circulated that it can help to cure or protect from the virus, and the number has been on the rise for the past few days.

Iran is also preparing for its traditional fire festival, held annually on the last Wednesday evening before the spring holiday of Nowrouz.

The Interior Ministry has ordered firefighters and medical services to be on the alert, but the head of a hospital specialising in the treatment of burns suggested the government ban the ceremony amid the virus outbreak.

“People suffering burns while the coronavirus is out there is a big nightmare,” Head of Tehran’s Motahari Hospital Mostafa Dehmardei told semi-official news agency ISNA.

Several politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have been infected with the new coronavirus, and some have died from the illness.