New virus has killed 43 with 593 cases confirmed, says Iran

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — An Iranian Health Ministry spokesman yesterday said the new coronavirus has killed 43 people amid 593 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic.

Kianoush Jahanpour urged people to stay away from mass gatherings and limit their travel.

Iran has the world’s highest death toll outside of China, the epicentre of the outbreak. The new figures from Iran this pushes the total cases in the Middle East to over 720.Jahanpour also urged people not to attend funerals of the dead, as a mass gathering could help spread the virus.

Yesterday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travellers who came from Iran and hadn’t been tested for the new coronavirus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks. The tiny island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia has been hard-hit with cases and shut down flights to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

All of Bahrain’s cases link back to Iran. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that 2,292 people had come to the kingdom from Iran before the announcement of the outbreak there. Of those, only “310 citizens” had called authorities and undergone testing, the ministry said, raising the possibility of the untested being arrested and charged if they refuse. The ministry “affirmed that the required legal proceedings would be taken against anyone who returned from Iran in February and didn’t call to make appointments for the tests,” the Interior Ministry said.

“It highlighted that preventing the outbreak of the infection is the responsibility of individuals and society as a whole.”

Iranians with face masks at Pardisan Park in Tehran. PHOTO: AP