Coronavirus: Iran experiences setback with 54 new deaths, outbreak in Khuzestan

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Iran on Monday warned of a setback in its efforts to contain the novel coronavirus unless health protocols are observed more closely, as it reported 45 new COVID-19 deaths.

The southwestern province of Khuzestan has become the new focal point of Iran’s COVID-19 outbreak with authorities reimposing strict measures to halt its spread.

“We have regressed in Khuzestan due to the increase in hospitalizations and not observing health protocols,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said in televised remarks.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

“This can happen to any other province if we are not careful,” he added, noting that tighter measures would be reimposed in other places too if needed.

Authorities have shut down state bodies, banks and non-essential businesses again in nine of Khuzestan’s counties.

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei said “less than 50 percent” of Khuzestan residents have observed health protocols.

“We’ve seen a rising trend of infection and death (in Khuzestan) which shows protocols and social distancing are not being observed,” he said in a televised news conference.

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The health ministry stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month.

State television aired images on Monday showing many maskless residents of the capital out and about.

Some of those interviewed explained that they now felt the weather was too hot to wear masks, while others thought the heat could kill the virus.

Official death toll now 6,685

The new fatalities brought to 6,685 the overall confirmed death toll in Iran, according to health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour.

He also said that 1,683 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 109,286.

Out of those hospitalized, 87,422 have recovered so far while 2,703 were in critical condition.

Iranian police have shut 1,300 websites and arrested 320 people accused of spreading rumors about the virus, state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.

They were accused of “disturbing public opinion,” the news agency said.

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