Coronavirus kills one Iranian every 10 minutes
The coronavirus pandemic is reportedly killing at least one person every 10 minutes in Iran, authorities say, as the country's ill-equipped health system struggles to contain infections.
Nearly 18,500 people have been infected and at least 1,284 people have died in the country. On Wednesday officials reported a nearly 15 per cent spike in deaths -
That rose again - by 149 yesterday - the biggest 24-hour rise in fatalities since Iranian officials first acknowledged infections of the virus in mid-February.
Shortages of key equipment has forced medical workers to treat the infected without masks, while families say they are burying the dead in makeshift graves.
Iranian health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said the outbreak was killing at least six people an hour, reports the Independent.
"Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran," he tweeted.
But even as the number of cases grows, food markets were still packed with shoppers and highways were crowded as families travelled ahead of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, today.
Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi urged the public to avoid travel and crowds, telling Iranians the days ahead represented two "golden weeks" to try curb the virus.
He criticised people for not adhering to the warnings to stay home. "This is not a good situation at all," he said.
President Hassan Rouhani defended his government's response to the outbreak in the face of widespread criticism that Iran acted too slowly and might even have covered up initial cases. He told his Cabinet the government was being "straightforward," saying it announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.
"We spoke to people in an honest way. We had no delay," he added.
For weeks, officials implored clerics to shut down crowded Shiite shrines to halt the spread of the virus. The government was only able to close them this week.
Iran also said it would close mosques for communal Friday prayers for a third consecutive week. Other Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have done so as well.
World Health Organization director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, said the many travel restrictions imposed by various countries are hurting efforts to combat the virus by delaying both the deployment of health experts and the delivery of urgently needed medical supplies.
Millions across the Middle East were under curfews, quarantines or almost total lockdowns.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
The human coronavirus is only spread from someone infected with COVID-19 to another. This occurs through close contact with an infected person through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands or surfaces.
What are the symptoms of someone infected?
Coronavirus patients may experience flu like symptoms such as a fever, cough, runny nose, or shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.