Iran establishes checkpoints between cities amid coronavirus outbreak

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Iran’s health minister says authorities will begin manning checkpoints to limit travel between major cities amid virus.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki made the announcement Thursday at a televised news conference.

He added that schools and universities will remain closed through Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 20.

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The total number of coronavirus deaths in Iran is 107 amid 3,513 confirmed cases, according to the health ministry on Thursday, quoted by Reuters. This death toll puts it equal with Italy as having the highest deaths outside of China.

This has pushed several countries to suspend flights and most of its neighbors to close their borders, especially after several neighboring countries started registering coronavirus cases relating to travel from Iran.

In Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Iraq, and the UAE coronavirus cases have been reported in travelers returning from Iran.

Iran’s response criticized

The Iranian government has been criticized for its response to the crisis.

After reports of the initial outbreak in the city of Qom, US Secretary Mike Pompeo voiced his concern that the authorities were suppressing the real numbers. Pompeo's comments followed the MP from Qom, who said that the number of infections were far higher than the official tally.

Iranian officials had previously been seen spraying chemicals on the streets.

On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei provoked criticism when he described the outbreak as “not that big of a deal.”

- With Reuters.

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