Iran is closing schools, scrambling for hospital places, and spraying disinfectant in the subway as coronavirus deaths and cases spike

mjankowicz@businessinsider.com (Mia Jankowicz)
Iranian women wear face masks to prevent contracting the novel coronavirus at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, on February 20, 2020.

West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via Reuters

Iran is closing schools and dedicating hospitals across the country to fight the novel coronavirus as the number of infections sharply increased across the country, according to multiple reports.

The government on Sunday closed schools, universities, and cultural centers in 14 provinces in an effort to contain the outbreak, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Cultural events in those 14 provinces, like soccer matches, have also been banned for the week ahead, the outlet reported.

Meanwhile, the government has also designated at least 230 hospitals across the country to treat coronavirus patients, Al Jazeera reported.

"In every city, one hospital will be dedicated to treating coronavirus cases," Health Minister Saeed Namaki said Sunday, noting that bigger cities would dedicate more hospitals to fighting the outbreak, according to AFP.

In Tehran, the capital city, authorities have ordered snack shops and water fountains in subway stations to close, and buses and subway trains to be disinfected daily, AFP reported.

Mohsen Hashemi, head of Tehran's municipal council, also told AFP that the entire city — which has about 9 million residents — would be put under quarantine if it sees more infections.

Pedestrians wearing masks in downtown Tehran, Iran, on February 23, 2020.

Associated Press

The measures came as the number of infections and deaths of the virus rose dramatically over the weekend. The official death toll rose to 12, and the number of infections to 61, on Monday, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

These figures have been questioned, however, with one lawmaker from the city of Qom telling the semi-official ILNA news agency that at least 50 people had died in that city alone, The Guardian, AFP and AP reported.

ILNA's editor also told AFP: "The rest of the media have not published this figure, but we prefer not to censor what concerns the coronavirus because people's lives are in danger."

The Iranian government rejected this claim. According to The Guardian, health minister Iraj Harirchi said on state television that he "categorically" denied the higher figures.

Numerous neighboring countries have also partly or wholly closed their borders with Iran, the South China Morning Post reported. They include Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and at least one crossing point with Kuwait.

The coronavirus, which first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed at least 2,600 people, mostly in China. It has since spread to at least 34 other countries, some of which have reported deaths of the virus.

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