Coronavirus: Iran bans internal travel to avert ‘second wave’

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Reuters

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Journalist Abdollah Zavieh was buried in the Tehran cemetery in Behesht Zahra on Tuesday

Iran's government has banned domestic travel and warned of a "second wave" of its coronavirus disease outbreak, as the official death toll has risen to over 2,000.

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Spokesman Ali Rabiei regretted that some people had ignored the advice and traveled during Nowruz's New Year holidays.

As a result, he said, people would no longer be able to leave their cities and would soon face further restrictions.

So far, Iran's leaders have resisted the imposition of blockades, despite being one of the hardest hit countries in the world.

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They insisted that all necessary measures were taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19, despite many Iranians expressing concern.

On Wednesday, Ministry of Health spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour recorded 143 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 2,077 since mid-February.

He said the number of confirmed cases has increased from 2,206 to 27,017, although the actual number is believed to be much higher.

Last week, the Ministry of Health asked Iranians to stay home during Nowruz, instead of visiting their families or taking day trips.

"Unfortunately, some Iranians ignored the advice of health ministry officials and traveled during the New Year holidays," Rabiei said in a television interview. "This can cause a second wave of the coronavirus."

He added that security forces would now prevent people from traveling between cities and that new regulations are coming soon to help contain the spread of Covid-19.

"We will tighten our regulations if people do not obey new regulations," he warned.

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Ministers wore masks and gloves during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday

At a cabinet meeting, President Hassan Rouhani said the regulations would be "strict" and "create difficulties" for the Iranians.

He added that the government may have no choice but to close parks for the Sizdah Bedar nature festival on April 1, when Iranians traditionally have picnics.

"People need to realize that these are difficult decisions that are being made to protect people's lives," he explained. "But we have no choice, because the lives of Iranians are important to us."

In other developments in the Middle East on Wednesday:

  • The first Palestinian died as a result of Covid-19. The 60-year-old woman was a resident of Bidu, north of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority said. Sixty-two cases have been reported in the occupied West Bank and two in Gaza
  • In Israel, where five people died and another 2,030 were infected, the government approved new restrictions. People must remain within 100 meters of their homes; prayer will only be allowed in open spaces; and public transport will be reduced to a quarter of its usual capacity
  • Coronavirus testing began in northwestern Syria after the World Health Organization delivered 300 kits. Meanwhile, the government imposed a 12-hour curfew in areas under its control and closed all borders, a day after confirming the first case in the war-torn country
  • Saudi Arabia reported its second death and reinforced the nationwide 21-day curfew that started on Monday. People will now be prevented from entering or leaving the capital Riyadh and the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina
  • In Jordan, where 153 cases have been reported, the government has reduced the indefinite curfew that prevented people from leaving their homes under any circumstances. Now they can walk to local grocery stores
  • In Egypt, a two-week partial curfew to keep people off the streets between 7 pm and 6 am took effect. There was also an extension of school closings until mid-April. The country recorded 402 cases of Covid-19 and 20 deaths

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