Iran surpasses one million coronavirus cases

Iran surpasses one million coronavirus cases
The Islamic republic has recorded 1,003,494 coronavirus infections since announcing its first cases in February. (File/AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2020

Iran surpasses one million coronavirus cases

Iran surpasses one million coronavirus cases
  • The coronavirus has killed 49,348 people in Iran
  • Authorities have taken a series of measures aimed at halting the spread of the virus

TEHRAN: Iran said its coronavirus infections surpassed one million cases on Thursday, as the authorities consider easing restrictions in many parts of the Middle East’s hardest hit country.

The Islamic republic has recorded 1,003,494 COVID-19 infections since announcing its first cases in February, ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television.

The coronavirus has killed 49,348 people in Iran over the same period of time, according to official figures.

But by the admission of some officials, including Health Minister Saeed Namaki, these figures are much lower than the reality.

In the past 24 hours the virus caused 358 new deaths in the country with a population of more than 80 million, and 13,922 new cases of infection, Lari said.

The number of fatalities, however, appears to have slightly eased in past days after soaring to a daily average of more than 400 for much of November.

COVID-19 first surfaced in Iran on February 19, when authorities said it claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom, a Shiite holy city south of the capital.

They were the first confirmed deaths from the disease in the Middle East.

In response, the authorities have taken a series of measures aimed at halting the spread of the virus.

But faced with the dual challenge of US sanctions and the pandemic, they have never imposed full lockdowns for fear they would cause further damage to Iran’s battered economy.

US President Donald Trump has reimposed wave after wave of sanctions on the Islamic republic since 2018, when he unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

Despite this, non-essential businesses were closed for two weeks in areas at the highest risk on November 21, reinforcing restrictions President Hassan Rouhani said were needed to curb a “third wave” of the outbreak.

The measures apply to the vast majority of cities across Iran, including Tehran and the country’s 30 other provincial capitals.

Like most countries affected by the pandemic, Iran — which began developing its own vaccine in the spring — is awaiting the availability of any vaccine against the virus.

Namaki announced on Wednesday that an Iranian company had “obtained a license to test a vaccine on humans.”

Minou Mohraz, a medical epidemiologist with the National Coronavirus Control Committee, announced this week that an animal testing phase has been completed.

They have yet to specify when testing will be carried out on humans.

But Namaki said that if the step is successful, “we will be one of the major producers (of COVID vaccines) in the region by early next spring.”

Iran had “pre-purchased” about 16.8 million doses of vaccine “via Covax” — the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mechanism for equitable access to vaccines, he was quoted as saying on the ministry’s website, without specifying which one.


Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia
Updated 7 min 20 sec ago

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia
  • Saturday’s protests come as the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic
  • The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until February 14

TUNIS: Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunisian cities on Saturday to protest police repression, corruption and poverty, following several nights of unrest marked by clashes and arrests.
Saturday’s protests come as the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has crippled the economy and threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Over 6,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Tunisia, with a record 103 deaths reported on Thursday.
The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until February 14.
But protesters took to the streets in several parts of the country, including the capital Tunis and the marginalized interior region of Gafsa, to demand the release of hundreds of young people detained during several nights of unrest since January 14.
“Neither police nor Islamists, the people want revolution,” chanted demonstrators in a crowd of several hundred in Tunis, where one person was wounded in brief clashes amid a heavy police presence.
Protests were also held in the coastal city of Sfax on Friday.
Much of the unrest has been in working class neighborhoods, where anger is boiling over soaring unemployment and a political class accused of having failed to deliver good governance, a decade after the 2011 revolution that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Economic misery exacerbated by novel coronavirus restrictions in the tourism-reliant nation have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to try to leave the country.
“The situation is catastrophic,” said Omar Jawadi, 33, a hotel sales manager, who has been paid only half his salary for months.
“The politicians are corrupt, we want to change the government and the system.”
The police have said more than 700 people were arrested over several nights of unrest earlier this week that saw young people hurl rocks and petrol bombs at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Human rights groups on Thursday said at least 1,000 people had been detained.
“Youth live from day to day, we no longer have hope, neither to work nor to study — and they call us troublemakers!” said call center worker Amine, who has a degree in aerospace engineering.
“We must listen to young people, not send police in by the thousands. The whole system is corrupt, a few families and their supporters control Tunisia’s wealth.”
Tunisia last week marked one decade since Ben Ali fled the country amid mass protests, ending 23 years in power.
Tunisia’s political leadership is divided, with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi waiting for parliament to confirm a major cabinet reshuffle announced last Saturday.