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Iran says virus infections show ‘gradual’ decline

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The trajectory of coronavirus infections in Iran appears to have started a “gradual” downward trend, the government said Monday, but it warned the disease is far from being under control.

The COVID-19 outbreak claimed 136 lives in the past 24 hours, bringing Iran’s overall death toll to 3,739, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference.

Iran registered 2,274 new cases of infection over the same period, he said, putting the total number at 60,500 across the country.

The figure shows a drop in officially reported new cases of the novel coronavirus for the sixth consecutive day after a peak of 3,111 reached on March 31.

Tehran announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, when it said two people died from the illness.

Iran is by far the country most affected by the pandemic in the Middle East, according to official tolls released by each state.

“Due to the intensification of the social distancing policy, we have seen a gradual and slow decline in the number of new cases in recent days,” Jahanpour said.

President Hassan Rouhani repeated calls for people to stay at home as he warned Iran could be “put back in a difficult situation” unless people follow guidelines.

Jahanpour reiterated this, saying: “I hope that the strongest possible adherence to these instructions… will allow us to enter a phase of disease control and containment.”

In an attempt to limit the spread of the disease, authorities have not confined the population but have adopted other restrictions such as closing most businesses deemed non-essential.

Rouhani announced on Sunday that the authorities had given the go-ahead for the resumption of certain economic activities “step by step” from April 11.

Since the end of the Persian New Year holidays on Saturday, the authorities and many Iranians have expressed concern about the negative impact of the disease spreading further, especially in Tehran.

Zohreh, a housewife in the city, told AFP she had felt “terrorised” to see so many people take to the streets of the capital for what appeared to be unnecessary outings.

Images circulated on social media showed many mask-clad passengers on Tehran’s underground trains and crowded buses.

There has also been an increase in the number of cars and other vehicles on the streets of the Iranian capital.

The uptick in traffic activity has brought back the cloud of pollution that shrouds the mountains to the north of the city, after it had disappeared for most of the New Year holidays.

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