Iran's Rouhani calls for national mobilisation against COVID-19 as cases surge

·2 min read
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as they wear protective masks, in Tehran
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as they wear protective masks, in Tehran

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday declared "the general mobilisation of the nation and the government" to confront the third wave of the coronavirus after health authorities announced the highest ever number of daily cases in the Middle East's worst-hit country.

"I call on all governmental organisations and other forces and institutions to rush to the aid of the health ministry and health workers with all possible means," Rouhani said in a statement, published by Iranian state media.

The government said on Saturday that stricter restrictions will be imposed in Tehran and some 100 other cities and towns across the country from Nov. 21. Non-essential businesses and services will be shut and cars will not be allowed to leave or enter those cities.

Iranian officials have repeatedly complained that many people ignore appeals to stay at home and respect health protocols, while Tehran city council chairman Mohsen Hashemi warned on Sunday that deaths could reach 1,000 a day in Tehran in the coming weeks, Iranian media reported.

The health ministry, cited by state media, reported 12,543 new infections in the past twenty four hours, a record high, bringing the total cases in Iran to 762,068. The ministry reported 459 new deaths, bringing the total to 41,493.

Leading opposition figure Mirhossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, under house arrest since 2011, have tested positive for coronavirus, the opposition website Kalemeh reported on Sunday.

Like many other countries in recent weeks, Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of the disease. Authorities have refrained from imposing a full-blown lockdown amid concerns that such a step could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.

The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated economic problems that worsened after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alexander Smith and Frances Kerry)