DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran announced on Friday the closure of all schools for three days from Saturday because of concerns about a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 34 people in the country.
The Islamic Republic had already canceled Friday prayers in the capitals of 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces because of the outbreak, including in Tehran and the Shi’ite Muslim holy cities of Qom and Mashhad.
“Based on assessments it was felt that there was a need for closing all the schools in the country and for this reason all the schools in the country will be closed for three days starting from tomorrow,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.
“We have a relatively difficult week ahead…as we see the trend, the main peak of the disease will be in the next week and coming days.”
The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, went on state television to announce the latest death toll and said 388 people were also infected by the virus.
The vast majority of infections were in three provinces: Tehran, 128, Qom, 88, and Gilan, 65, according to a map published by the official IRNA news agency citing health ministry figures.
Those infected in Iran include Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi and Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs.
The Islamic Republic is the only country in the Gulf region that has reported deaths from the coronavirus, which has spread from China, but people have been infected in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Three new cases reported in Friday in Bahrain took the total diagnosed with the coronavirus there to 36, and two new cases reported by Kuwait took the total infected there to 45.
All those infected in Bahrain and Kuwait had traveled to Iran or were contaminated by people who went there, according to officials in the two Gulf Arab states.
The United Arab Emirates has granted Iran permission to send a handful of flights to Dubai to fly Iranians home, the ISNA news agency reported, citing information from Iran’s consulate in Dubai.
Saudi Arabia has reported no deaths or infections and has tightened travel restrictions to try to prevent it spreading across its borders.
The United States asked its military in Saudi Arabia to avoid crowded venues including malls and cinemas as coronavirus was reported spreading in neighboring countries, according to a document from the U.S. embassy seen by Reuters on Friday.
Oman on Friday restricted the entry of citizens from other Gulf Arab states who had previously been able to enter by showing national identification cards.
Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh and Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alex Richardson and Timothy Heritage
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