Iran’s Khamenei cancels Persian new year speech over coronavirus fears

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Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has cancelled an annual speech marking the start of the Persian new year, his office announced Monday, as the country’s death toll from novel coronavirus mounts.

“The ceremony of the speech of the supreme leader which takes place every year at the sacred mausoleum of Imam Reza... will not take place this year” and Khamenei will not travel to the city of Mashhad, the statement said.

Iran has had 237 deaths from coronavirus and 7,161 infections, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV on Monday.

The figures included 595 new infections and 43 new deaths within the past 24 hours. Iran has had one of the highest death rates from the illness outside of China, where the virus originated.

On Monday, Iran has released approximately 70,000 prisoners because of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Iranian judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi said.

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