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Iran cancels Nowruz celebrations as virus death toll passes 1,400

Fire brigade crews wearing protective masks carry out disinfection works due to the coronavirus [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2020

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Iranian New Year celebrations have been cancelled as the country battles coronavirus deaths and urges citizens to stay at home.
New years celebrations in Iran have been cancelled as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak, which has caused the deaths of over 1,400 people.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani addressed the nation during a televised speech, calling on Iranians to stand together during this difficult time.

"At the end of the (Iranian) year, we encountered an uninvited destructive guest, not only us but more than 150 countries and nations," Rouhani said.

"It was the coronavirus. This virus could jeopardize the people's health and even their businesses."

He added: "We will put the coronavirus behind us soon with unity, with hard work and with cooperation. We will do it with efforts of our doctors."

Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Rouhani vowed to overcome the new coronavirus outbreak and increase economic growth.

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, called the new year "the year of leaps in production" in Iran's economy - he said the country's 80 million people were in a position to boost domestic production alongside the country's exports.

Rouhani marked the new year, known as Nowruz, by promising a better economy and called the new virus "an uninvited destructive guest".

The Iranian leaders' optimistic tone on Friday stood in stark contrast to the effect of the outbreak of the new coronavirus - so far the country has had 1,433 fatalities out of 19,644 confirmed cases.

Rouhani has defended his government's response to the coronavirus outbreak in the face of widespread criticism that officials acted too slowly and may have even covered up initial cases before infections rapidly spread across the country.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

According to the World Health Organisation, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Worldwide, more than 244,500 people have been infected and more than 10,000 have died.

Over 80,000 have recovered, most of them in China.

Coronavirus-related death 'every 10 minutes'

At least one person is dying every ten minutes in Iran as a result of health complications arising from the novel coronavirus, the country's health ministry spokesman tweeted on Thursday.

Death tolls continue to climb in the Islamic Republic, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, which has so far recorded 18,407 cases and 1284 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.

Of those numbers, 1046 were cases recorded in the past 24 hours, while 149 of the recorded deaths occurred within that period.

Tehran, the country's capital, had the highest number of new cases, with 137 reported, followed by the central province of Isfahan, with 108 and Gilan in the north with 73.

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