Iranians, some wearing protective masks, wait to cross a street in the capital Tehran on February 22, 2020. (Photo by AFP)
Iran has put in place a set of contingency plans, including the temporary shutdown of schools, universities and cultural centers, in an effort to curb a coronavirus outbreak that has already claimed eight lives in the country.
The Health Ministry on Sunday raised the death toll from the virus to eight and the number of people who had tested positive for coronavirus at 43.
The ministryís spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said that 15 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, three of whom lost their lives.
The epicenter of the outbreak is the central city of Qom.
As a preventive measure, Iranian authorities ordered the week-long closure across 14 provinces as of Sunday.
They include Qom, Markazi, Gilan, Ardabil, Kermanshah, Qazvin, Zanjan, Mazandaran, Golestan, Hamadan, Alborz, Semnan, Kordestan and the capital, Tehran.
Spokesman for Tehranís Department of Education, Masoud Saghafi, said the decision was made to "prepare schools" which have to be disinfected and sanitized.
Tehranís Mayor Pirouz Hanachi said Sunday that all the cityís public places, including the metro trains and buses, are being disinfected every night as part of attempts to contain the spread of the virus.
Head of Food and Drug Administration Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz also said that pharmacies will no longer be allowed to sell protective masks and that masks will be distributed among the population via government-run centers free of charge, with the priority given to virus-hit provinces.
Mansour Gholami, Iranís Minister of Science, Research, and Technology, called on all university deans to make every effort to maintain a calm atmosphere and adopt effective measures to prevent the virus from spreading.
The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance has also announced the cancelation of all concerts and other cultural events for one week.
The government also announced that all indoor art events across the country have been cancelled and cinemas will remain closed until the end of the week.
Authorities meanwhile said all sport matches will go as planned but without spectators.
Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said that Iranís Supreme National Security Council had convened and that President Hassan Rouhani had attended the session.
In the meeting, it was decided that the Health Ministry would be in charge of announcing the need to shut down any city it deemed necessary.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran first surfaced on Wednesday, when authorities said it had claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom.
More than 2,400 people have died of coronavirus since it began more than a month ago in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Countries like South Korea and Iran are reporting growing number of infections despite a fall in cases in China in recent days.
The coronavirus can cause various illnesses, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as pneumonia. Common signs of the infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and other breathing difficulties.
SOURCE: PRESS TV