DUBAI: The death toll from coronavirus infections in Iran rose on Saturday to 611, up nearly 100 from a day earlier, state TV said, while Tehran’s governor-general denied plans to impose a lockdown on the capital.
A Health Ministry official spokesman quoted by the TV, put the total number of those diagnosed with the disease at 12,729, in the country which is one of the most affected by the pandemic outside China.
Meanwhile Tehran governor general Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey denied that officials were planning a lockdown in the capital, state TV reported, after social media messages warned that residents would not be allowed to leave their homes from Sunday.
“Tehran’s governor-general rejected any rumour about a lockdown in Tehran as a ‘big lie’,” state television said in a news flash.
Working hours in government offices would not be changed in the next few days and large supermarkets would extend their business hours, Mohseni-Bandpey was quoted as saying by the TV.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki earlier said that officials had approved plans to set up screening stations outside a number of cities in an effort to curb travels.
Officials have expressed concern about the possibility of infections spreading during Nowruz, the Iranian new year starting on March 20, which is usually a period when families travel to vacation spots around the country.
On Friday, state media said security forces would empty the streets of cities across Iran within a day in a drive to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, after officials repeatedly complained that many Iranians have ignored calls to stay home and avoid travel.
Louvre Abu Dhabi SHUT
The United Arab Emirates said on Saturday it was shutting major tourism and cultural venues, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum and the Ferrari World theme park, from March 15-31, as Gulf states stepped up measures against coronavirus.
The UAE civil aviation authority also announced a suspension of all flights from and to Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, starting March 17 until further notice.
Dubai, the UAE’s regional business and transit hub, said it was cancelling all events planned in March and asked hotels not to host wedding celebrations during this period.
A number of shops have voluntarily closed in Dubai to contribute to the containment efforts.
Gulf Arab states have stepped up measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait taking the most drastic decisions by cancelling all international flights.
Saudi Arabia has suspended all international flights for two weeks, starting on Sunday, while Kuwait did not specify a period for the lockdown which started on Saturday.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of six oil-rich Arab countries, has reported nearly 850 coronavirus cases, mostly of people who had travelled to Iran or who were contaminated by them.
No death has been reported in the GCC, unlike in Iran.
Saudi Arabia has cancelled all sports events until further notice and decided to close all sports centres, state media said.
The UAE will suspend all visa issuance, except to foreign diplomats, starting on March 17, the official news agency WAM reported, citing immigration authorities.
Qatar will stop issuing visas upon arrival to a number of European nationalities from Sunday, the government communication office said.
Iraq’s Kurdish region hit
Pigeons are the only visitors to Arbil’s citadel, normally buzzing with tourists, and security forces in masks and gloves have emptied cobblestone streets below as the Iraqi city goes into lockdown.
Overnight Friday to Saturday, Arbil and the city of Sulaimaniyah, both in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdish region, began a 48-hour curfew to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Moving around is banned and people must stay home,” the region’s Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Iraq has registered at least 10 deaths and more than 90 cases of COVID-19. The first recorded fatality was a 70-year-old imam in Sulaimaniyah, and 28 others in the region are confirmed to have been infected.