Iran reported more than 100 coronavirus deaths Sunday, the nation’s biggest single-day jump in fatalities since the outbreak began, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ruled out a general quarantine amid the spreading global pandemic.
Iran’s Health Ministry reported 113 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 724, and confirmed COVID-19 cases reached nearly 14,000. There are concerns the number of infections in Iran – considered the epicenter of the pandemic in the Middle East – is much higher than the confirmed cases reported by the government.
In addition to ruling out a general quarantine, Rouhani on Sunday said the government was working to keep the nation’s borders open.
Iran has been slow to adopt measures to slow the virus’ spread, citing the crippling U.S. sanctions. Other countries across the Middle East have already imposed sweeping travel restrictions, canceled public events and called on non-essential businesses to close for the coming weeks. Many have temporarily closed schools and universities.
Iranian health officials have voiced concerns that if the rapid rise in cases continues, health facilities might not be able to accommodate all patients.
“If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity,” Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted as saying earlier by the state-run IRNA news agency.
Iran is believed to have around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in the capital, Tehran. Authorities have pledged to set up mobile clinics as needed.
Zali also acknowledged that “many” of those who have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus were otherwise healthy, a rare admission by local authorities that the virus does not only prey on the sick and elderly.
Health Ministry figures show that while 55 percent of fatalities were in their 60s, some 15 percent were younger than 40.
The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,800. More than 70,000 people worldwide have recovered after being infected.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Most people recover in a matter of weeks.