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Coronavirus pandemic 'could kill millions' in Iran


Iran has issued its most dire warning yet about the new coronavirus outbreak ravaging the country, suggesting "millions" could die within the Islamic Republic if people keep travelling and ignore health advisories.

A state television journalist, who is additionally a medical doctor, gave the warning on Tuesday citing a study by Tehran's prestigious Sharif University of Technology, which offered three scenarios regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran, one among the deadliest outside China, where the illness originated.

Prayers restricted across geographic region amid coronavirus fears
Iran's vp and two ministers suffering from coronavirus
On Tuesday, 135 new coronavirus deaths took the country's overall toll to 988, because it curtailed celebrations for a hearth festival during a bid to contain the disease.

Dr Afruz Eslami said if people begin to cooperate now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over. If they provide medium cooperation, there'll be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths, she added.

But if people fail to follow any guidance, it could collapse Iran's already-strained medical system, Eslami said. If the "medical facilities aren't sufficient, there'll be four million cases, and 3.5 million people will die," she said.

Eslami didn't elaborate what metrics the study used, but reporting it on Iran's tightly controlled state TV represented a significant change for a rustic whose officials had for days denied the severity of the crisis.

At least 12 Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have now died of the illness, and 13 more are infected and are either in quarantine or being treated.

No 'unnecessary' travel
Iran has been scrambling to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus which to date has infected some 16,000, including 1,178 new confirmed cases within the past 24 hours, consistent with the health ministry.

On Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a non secular ruling prohibiting "unnecessary" travel within the country.

It came because the public ignored repeated warnings and pleas from security forces. Iran has been urging people to remain home, but many have ignored the decision.

Late on Monday night, angry crowds stormed into the courtyards of Mashhad's Imam Reza shrine and Qom's Fatima Masumeh shrine.

Crowds typically pray there 24 hours each day, seven days per week, touching and kissing the shrine. That has worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran's Shia clergy to shut them.

On Monday, the state TV had announced the shrines' closure, sparking the demonstrations.

Police later dispersed the crowds, state media reported. Religious authorities and a prominent Qom seminary called the demonstration an "insult" to the shrine during a statement, urging the faithful to depend on "wisdom and patience" amid the closure.

Iran's shrines draw Shias from everywhere the center East for pilgrimages, likely contributing to the spread of the virus across the region. Asian country earlier closed off Islam's holiest sites over fear of the virus spreading.

In its latest try and contain the virus, Iranian police banned celebrations marking the standard fire festival that comes before Nowruz - the Persian yr.

However, since it announced its first two deaths within the Heaven of Qom last month, Iran has yet to impose any lockdowns and therefore the outbreak has spread to any or all 31 of the country's provinces.

15 million screened
State TV reported that Iran had deployed teams to screen travellers leaving major cities in 13 provinces, including the capital, Tehran.

The teams will check travellers' temperatures and send those with fever to quarantine centres.

Apparently, during a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Iran released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Tuesday. He said that the order included half all "security-related" prisoners, without elaborating.

Among those released is Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who was in jail for nearly two months.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said quite 15 million Iranians are screened for symptoms,

According to the health ministry, the trend of rising reported infections is thanks to the increasing number of tests being allotted.

Roughly nine out of 10 of the quite 18,000 cases of the new virus confirmed across the center East have come from Iran.

Countries across the center East have imposed sweeping travel restrictions, cancelled public events and called on non-essential businesses to shut for the approaching weeks.

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