TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran said Saturday the coronavirus outbreak has killed another 97 people, pushing the death toll in the country to 611 amid 12,729 confirmed cases.
Iran is suffering from the worst outbreak in the Middle East. The virus has also infected a number of senior officials there.
A spokesman for Iran’s Health Ministry announced the latest cases on state TV. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said there would be “some new restrictions” on movement into and out of cities, without elaborating.
There are concerns that the number of infections in Iran is much higher than the confirmed cases reported by the government, with some Iranian lawmakers even speaking out.
The outbreak has not spared Iran’s top officials, with its senior vice president, Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials among those infected.
Iran has suspended schools and banned spectators from stadiums, but religious shrines remain open and the markets and streets are still crowded in the capital, Tehran, which has been hit hardest by the virus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus in a matter of weeks, but the outbreak has caused more than 5,000 deaths worldwide.
Earlier Saturday, Saudi Arabia said it would halt all international flights to the kingdom for two weeks in the latest effort to contain the spread of the new virus.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency, quoting an unnamed Interior Ministry official, said flights would be cancelled starting Sunday.
In the United Arab Emirates, health officials ordered the elderly to stay home because of the coronavirus outbreak and authorities said some federal employees could begin working from home for two weeks starting Sunday.
Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper reported that nightclubs and tourist restaurants in the emirate will be shut down until the end of March. The Department of Culture and Tourism also suspended all planned events, including concerts, in Abu Dhabi. The decision does not extend to Dubai.
A number of major sporting events, conferences and other gatherings have been cancelled across the globe. The virus is highly contagious, and even those showing no symptoms can spread it, making large public gatherings particularly risky.
Image: Firefighters disinfect a street against the new coronavirus, in western Tehran, Iran, Friday, March 13, 2020. The new coronavirus outbreak has reached Iran’s top officials, with its senior vice president, Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials among those infected. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
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