Iran dismisses ‘rumours’ as virus deaths jump to 43
Tehran: Iran Saturday dismissed as "rumours" a report that coronavirus has killed more than 200 people in the country, one of the hardest hit by the disease, with senior officials among those infected.
Since it announced its first coronavirus deaths, Iran has scrambled to bring the outbreak under control, shutting schools, suspending cultural and sporting events and halting meetings of the cabinet and parliament.
The health ministry on Saturday reported nine new deaths and a 53 percent jump in infections over the previous 24 hours taking the overall totals to 43 deaths and 593 cases.
It was the highest number of new cases for a single day since Iran announced its first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims from abroad, on February 19.
Citing unnamed sources in Iran’s health system, the BBC’s Persian-language service said on Friday that at least 210 people had died in the COVID-19 outbreak.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour accused foreign media of spreading misinformation about the outbreak as he announced the new figures on Saturday.
"Given the rumours and false and contradictory content that may be published from satellite networks or media which are not well-intentioned towards Iranian people, I must say that what we publish as definitive statistics is based on the latest definitive findings of laboratory tests," he told a televised news conference.
On Friday, he accused BBC Persian of joining Iran’s regional enemies in a "race to spread lies".
South Korea virus cases surge as WHO sounds maximum alert
South Korea reported its biggest surge in new coronavirus cases on Saturday as concerns grew of a possible epidemic in the United States and the World Health Organization raised its risk alert to its highest level.
The virus has rapidly spread across the world in the past week, causing stock markets to sink to their lowest levels since the 2008 global financial crisis over fears that the disease could wreak havoc on the world economy.
More than 2,900 people have died and over 85,000 have been infected worldwide since it was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
The vast majority of infections have been in China but more daily cases are now logged outside the country, with South Korea, Italy and Iran emerging as major hotspots.
South Korea has the most cases outside China, with 3,150 infections as 813 more patients were reported on Saturday -- the country’s biggest increase to date.
Qatar confirms
first coronavirus case
Qatar has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, state media reported Saturday, after a 36-year-old Qatari woman who was evacuated to Doha from Iran tested positive.
Qatar on Thursday repatriated a number of its citizens from Iran.
Saudi bars GCC citizens
Saudi Arabia on Friday barred citizens from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Qatar, from entering two of Islam’s holiest cities amid fears over coronavirus.
The Gulf tally stands at 45 cases of coronavirus in Kuwait, 38 in Bahrain, six in Oman and two more in the United Arab Emirates for a total of 21.
On Saturday the UAE also announced it was suspending nursery school classes, and limiting activities at other schools. – AFP