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COVID-19: Iran Death Toll Rises; More New Cases In Kazakhstan As Central Asia Remains Sparsely Hit

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Another 97 people in Iran infected with the coronavirus have died, pushing the death toll to 611, state TV reported on March 14.

Citing a Health Ministry official, the report said Iran, suffering the worst outbreak in the Middle East, has registered a total of 12,729 confirmed cases.

Critics fear the real number of cases, however, could be much higher amid questions over the government’s transparency with regard to the issue.

Clerical rulers have already closed schools and universities and suspended religious, cultural, and sports events across the country to combat the outbreak.

On March 13, a top Iranian military official said Iranian security forces have been ordered to clear the streets across the country within 24 hours as the country struggles to contain the virus.

Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the armed forces chief of staff, said in televised remarks: “Our law enforcement and security committees, along with the Interior Ministry and provincial governors, will be clearing shops, streets and roads.”

On March 12, Tehran said it was seeking a $5-billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help finance the country’s efforts to fight the contagion.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 to immediately lift sanctions over the country’s nuclear program. He said they made it difficult to import medicine and medical equipment.

Kazakhstan

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kazakhstan has risen to six after two new infections were discovered after those affected arrived from abroad, the Health Ministry said on March 14.

One of the infected patients flew to the country’s second city, Almaty, from Moscow, officials said.

The other, a woman, flew to the capital, Nur-Sultan, from Warsaw, Poland.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only two of the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the coronavirus at the center of the global pandemic.

Uzbekistan early on March 15 reported its first confirmed case of infection, with the government saying it was an Uzbek citizen returning from France.

Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.

Four of Kazakhstan’s six COVID-19 patients are being treated in Almaty and the other two in Nur-Sultan, the ministry said.

Kazakhstan has already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Officials there say more than 1,000 people are currently in quarantine and nearly 500 others are in self-quarantine at home.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan moved quickly to severely restrict travelers from nearby China after the outbreak of the novela coronavirus began late last year.

Armenia

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his wife, Anna Hakobian, tested negative for the novel coronavirus on March 14 after spending a night in self-isolation in the town of Sevan, he told a livestream broadcast.

He said they decided to be tested for the potentially deadly virus at the centeer of the global pandemic after local media cited Hakobian’s contacts with the wife of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a visit to that Latin American country on March 7.

The Brazilian leader has since said he tested negative for the virus after it was discovered that an aide and another senior government official were infected.

Azerbaijan

Turkey and Azerbaijan have agreed to temporarily halt all mutal air and land travel between their countries as they fight the coronavirus pandemic, their presidential offices announced on March 14.

The closure comes into effect after midnight overnight on March 14-15 and excludes cargo transit, according to the Turkish side.

The announcement came after a telephone call between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish-Azerbaijani border is just 18 kilometers long with a single border crossing, at the Umut Bridge.

Azerbaijan, which also shares a border with hard-hit Iran, registered its first COVID-19 death on March 12.

It has confirmed a total of 19 infections so far.

Azerbaijani authorities closed their border with Iran two weeks ago in a measure slated to last at least two more weeks.

The prime ministers of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan agreed on March 13 to shutter their borders from March 14 for 10 days in connection with the threat from the virus.

The number of confirmed cases in Turkey rose to five on March 13,

Turkey has recently banned entry for foreigners from nine European countries on top of previous flight bans to China, Iran, Iraq, Italy, and South Korea.

More Borders Tightened

Meanwhile, countries across the globe have continued to take steps to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus as some tallies put the number of worldwide infections above 150,000 on March 14 while China, where the pandemic started, has reported a drop in new cases.

As Europe faces the consequences of becoming the epicenter of the global pandemic, many governments there have further tightened their borders and grappled with the imposition of measures to limit crowds and other sources of physical conduct that could further spread the new coronavirus.

In Russia, officials said they were shutting their borders with Poland and Norway to foreigners as an official task force cited a spike in infections from 45 to 59 in the previous 24 hours.

The global number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 142,649 in 135 countries, areas, or regions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 14, with 5,393 deaths so far.

But the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, which combines WHO figures and local media reports, put the number of infections higher at 153,585, with 5,789 deaths

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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