Coronavirus panic adds insult to already injured Iranian currency

People walk past a currency exchange shop in the Iranian capital Tehran, on April 24, 2019. (AFP)

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in Iran, which has now more confirmed cases than anywhere else in the Middle East, is causing panic in the country and the hurting the already tumbling rial.

Read: Coronavirus cases in Iran could be as high as 1,500: Experts

The Iranian rial has weakened approximately 10 percent on the black market within a week since Tehran announced its first case of coronavirus on February 19, according to Bombast.com, which tracks the free market.

The dollar was being offered at as much as 158,500 rials on Wednesday, well below its official rate of 42,000 rials.

That has extended its fall since thousands of Iranians took to the streets in November to demonstrate against a hike in gasoline prices in a protest turned political against government corruption.

The rial has since plummeted by almost 30 percent.

Iran’s coronavirus death toll rose on Wednesday to 19, the highest outside China, pushing 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.

The border closures and flight cancellations seem certain to deepen Iran’s economic isolation, as Tehran has relied heavily on trade ties with its neighbors to partly offset the crippling impact of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign which re-imposed sanctions in 2018 after it exited the 2015 nuclear deal.

- With wires

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Last Update: 04:42 KSA 07:42 - GMT 04:42
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