Iran coronavirus death toll tops 9,500

Nurses work in a COVID-19 ward in Tehran. (AP)
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Updated 20 June 2020

Iran coronavirus death toll tops 9,500

  • The virus has claimed 115 Iranian lives in the last 24 hours
  • Iran has experienced the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East

TEHRAN: Iranian health authorities Saturday announced more than 100 new deaths from coronavirus and another 2,000 cases of the illness, as the country’s fight against the pandemic entered its fifth month.
Iran reported its first coronavirus cases on February 19, and it has since struggled to contain the outbreak, the worst in the Middle East.
The Islamic republic’s official figures have shown an upward trajectory in new cases of infection since early May.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said there were 115 fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 9,507.
There were also 2,322 new cases of infection, with the total number of confirmed cases now at 202,584, she added.
There has been skepticism at home and abroad about Iran’s official figures, with concerns the real toll could be much higher.
President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday warned that stress created by the disease could leave people “depressed.”
He called on experts and artists to prepare Iranians mentally “to fight the virus for a long time.”
“Without perseverance and continuity, we risk losing all our gains,” he said during a meeting of a taskforce set up to fight the pandemic.
Rouhani also confirmed his government’s decision to allow provinces to make their own decisions on restrictive measures, implemented with “the president’s approval.”
Seven of Iran’s 31 provinces — Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, Kermanshah, West and East Azerbaijan, Golestan and Kurdistan — are currently “red,” the highest level on its color-coded risk scale, Lari said.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 5 min 41 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.