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.

Months-old baby tests positive for COVID-19 in Lebanon

Months-old baby tests positive for COVID-19 in Lebanon
Updated 7 min 14 sec ago

Months-old baby tests positive for COVID-19 in Lebanon

Months-old baby tests positive for COVID-19 in Lebanon
  • Vaccination plan targets 3 million people as lockdown curbs extended

BEIRUT: A four-month-old baby boy has become the youngest person to test positive for coronavirus in Lebanon.

The infant returned the positive test alongside his six-year-old sister and both his parents.

The boy’s father, Mazen Al-Muqaddam, revealed the test results, saying that his son’s symptoms “are still tolerable” and that the family is receiving treatment while quarantining at home in the southern village of Toul.

“My son Mohammed started showing symptoms three days ago. He was coughing and unable to sleep,” the father said.

“Doctors told us that we caught the virus a week ago. We still do not know how. For nine months we have been following all the necessary preventive measures.”

Despite eight days of total lockdown, the number of coronavirus cases in Lebanon is still rising, with 64 deaths recorded on Wednesday.

A 24-year-old woman was among the latest victims.

The latest surge in cases has filled public and private hospital emergency wards, and stretched medical and nursing staff to the limit.

A Supreme Defense Council meeting led by President Michel Aoun on Thursday decided to extend the lockdown until Feb. 8.

Lebanon is expected to start receiving the Pfizer vaccine early in February, with Hassan Diab, the country’s caretaker prime minister, confirming that “all financial and administrative procedures have been completed to ensure the arrival of the vaccine in the specified period.”

Gen. Joseph Aoun, the armed forces commander, visited a military hospital in Beirut on Thursday, including a section dedicated to COVID-19 patients.

The hospital is also struggling due to the large number of infections among military personnel and their families.

Meanwhile, Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Bizri, head of the national committee for infectious diseases, outlined the strategy for distribution of the Pfizer vaccine to a meeting of the parliamentary health committee.

Assem Araji, head of the committee, said that Lebanon has agreements to receive 2.2 million vaccines from Pfizer and a further 1.5 million vaccines through the COVAX platform, while talks with AstraZeneca are continuing in order to secure an additional 2 million vaccines.

“This will bring our total to 6 million vaccines, which will allow us to vaccinate around 3 million citizens and residents,” he said.

Araji said that Syrian and Palestinian refugees will be among those vaccinated.

“If we do not vaccinate between 70 and 80 percent of the population, we will not be able to contain the pandemic,” he added.

“We will start with 250,000 Pfizer vaccines in the first quarter of 2021. We will have 350,000 vaccines for the second quarter and 800,000 for the third quarter, while we will have 600,000 vaccines available during the last quarter of the year, bringing the total to 2.1 million vaccines.”

Health workers, including doctors, pharmacists, nurses and hospital staff, will be first to receive the vaccine. They will be followed by people over 75.

Individuals under 16 years of age will need parental approval to receive the vaccine, he added.

Araji said a health ministry platform will be launched on Monday allowing people to register for the vaccine. After registration, the platform will direct people to a vaccination center.

Inoculations will take place at 35 centers around the country.