Iran’s coronavirus death toll climbs above 600 as Syria adopts strict measures

Iran said Saturday the coronavirus outbreak has killed another 97 people, pushing the death toll in the country to 611, as war-ravaged Syria announced a number of strict measures despite the government saying it has no confirmed cases.

Iran is suffering from the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with 12,729 cases and even senior officials testing positive. It is a close ally of the Syrian government in the civil war, with military advisors as well as Shiite pilgrims frequently travelling between the two countries.

A spokesman for Iran’s Health Ministry announced the latest cases on state TV. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said there would be “some new restrictions” on movement into and out of cities, without elaborating.

There are concerns that the number of infections in Iran is much higher than the confirmed cases reported by the government, with some Iranian lawmakers having questioned the official toll.

The outbreak has not spared Iran’s top officials, with its senior vice-president, Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials among those infected.

Iran has suspended schools and banned spectators from stadiums, but religious shrines remain open and the markets and streets are still crowded in the capital, Tehran, which has been hit hardest by the virus.

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