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Iran to designate dead medical staff ‘martrys’ as coronavirus kills 291

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Meng Tao/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran says the novel coronavirus has killed 54 more people in the country, raising the death toll to 291.

The number of officially recorded cases in the country rose to 8,042, more than 881 over the previous day, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told a televised news conference on March 10.

Jahanpur said that 2,731 patients have been sent home from the hospital after making a recovery.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East by the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 110,000 people globally and killed over 4,000.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that medical staff who die after contracting the virus will be considered martyrs.

The families of those designated martyrs, typically from the security forces, receive financial aid and other benefits from the state.

Khamenei also canceled his annual speech in the city of Mashhad next month to mark the Persian New Year due to concerns about the virus.

Meanwhile, the country’s official government news agency IRNA reported that 36 Iranians died of alcohol poisoning after consuming tampered alcohol in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

The report said that “consuming fake alcohol has occurred due to the spread of rumors that drinking alcohol would prevent the coronavirus infection.”

Ali Ehsanpour, spokesman of Ahvaz Jondi Shapur University of Medical Sciences, was quoted as saying that a total of 270 people were admitted to hospitals for treatment.

The deputy public prosecutor of Khuzestan Province, Ali Biranvand, said seven individuals were arrested for selling fake alcoholic drinks.

Most of the coronavirus infections in Iran have been recorded in the capital, Tehran, and the central province of Qom.

The authorities have closed schools and universities, suspended major cultural and sporting events, and reduced working hours across the country to slow the contagion.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, nine more people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, increasing the nationwide count to 16, officials say.

In a tweet late on March 9, top health official Zafar Mirza said that all nine were from the southern city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province, which has reported a total of 14 cases.

“All these cases are contacts of an already confirmed case. Further contacts are being traced and tested,” Mirza wrote.

Five of the nine were said to have recently traveled from Syria via Doha, Qatar. The four others reportedly traveled from London to Karachi via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Officials in the southwestern province of Balochistan told RFE/RL that all Pakistanis crossing the border with Iran were being screened.

Those with symptoms of coronavirus are being quarantined at four centers established at the border, provincial government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani said.

“Every day between 350 and 500 people come from Iran across the border,” Shahwani said. “We have quarantined 4,000 people for now.”

Pakistan has closed its border with Iran as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus but allows Pakistanis to return home.

Pakistani authorities have closed the country’s border with Afghanistan for another seven days, Shahwani said.

Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have banned flights to and from Pakistan.

Serbia Closes Border

Also on March 10, Serbia closed its borders for travelers from countries most affected by the coronavirus outbreak in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease.

The temporary ban applies to people arriving from Italy, certain provinces in China, South Korea, Iran, and Switzerland, the government said.

Medical workers are also banned from traveling to affected areas, according to a statement.

It did not say how long the measures would last.

Four people, including a Chinese national, have tested positive for the coronavirus in Serbia.

A total of 108 people had been tested for coronavirus by March 10, according to the Health Ministry.