Home / News / World /  New coronavirus cases surge by a record 2,206 in Iran after millions travel

Iran reported a record number of new coronavirus cases and President Hassan Rouhani warned of a second wave of the pathogen sweeping the country after many defied official calls to cancel Persian new year travel plans.

Authorities announced 2,206 new infections on Wednesday, the highest daily count since Iran reported its first case on 19 February, bringing the total to 27,017.

At least 2,077 people have died, making it one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the disease.

The health ministry said the jump in new cases was due to increased testing, but there were concerns the behaviour of Iranians was propelling the outbreak.

State TV has showed highways packed with cars and families traveling to see relatives in other cities over the holiday which ended Tuesday. The head of Tehran’s coronavirus task force, Alireza Zali, told Fars news agency that residents of the capital were the worst offenders.

“Our health minister has explained that, God willing, we have passed the first wave," Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting.

“But at the same time, it’s possible in the coming days that we are going to face another wave and we have to manage that as well."

Another surge in cases could push Iran’s already stretched health system to the brink of collapse. China, Russia and the United Nations have urged the US to lift its sanctions on Iran so that equipment and supplies can be imported into the Islamic Republic without the restrictions and legal delays imposed by the treasury.

Ahead of the holiday, the number of new cases reported each day had plateaued at roughly between 1,000 and 1,200. As that number resumed its upward trajectory, authorities were set to ban travel between cities and shutter all public parks and gathering spaces, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on state TV.

He didn’t say when the measures will start or how they will be enforced.

With Iran ravaged by virus, US is pressured to ease sanctions

The US has so far refused to heed those calls, but Rouhani said on Wednesday that a new resolution was being discussed by members of the UN Security Council that could soon unlock some Iranian funds frozen overseas. The president said he’d been told by a non-permanent member of the council that the resolution was ready.

Iran is the virus epicentre in West Asia, accounting for the vast majority of cases. Officials have repeatedly told people to stay at home and not attend religious shrines, which have facilitated the spread of the disease.

However many people ignored the advice, while Rouhani rejected calls to quarantine cities including Qom— where Iran’s outbreak first took hold—citing a lack of resources. An official estimated 1.2 million people entered the holy city of Mashhad in the days ahead of new year.

Even the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps allowed a public funeral for one of its generals to go ahead Sunday, with hundreds of mourners attending.

The IRGC said two weeks ago that it was preparing its forces to patrol towns and cities, but the deployment never materialized.

Meanwhile, Rouhani wants to tap the country’s sovereign wealth fund for $1 billion to support a healthcare system overstretched by a major coronavirus outbreak, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Rouhani wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday requesting permission to withdraw the money from the National Development Fund, IRNA reported, quoting Rouhani’s comments at a coronavirus task force meeting in Tehran.

“We need this budget for hospital equipment and to finance the cost of health care and treatment," Rouhani said.

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Recommended For You
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout