Skip to main content

Iran: Three more coronavirus deaths as Turkey closes border with Islamic Republic

Supreme leader accuses foreign media of trying to discourage people from voting in election, using reports about virus
Khamenei hailed the "huge participation" in Friday's election despite it being the lowest since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution (AFP)

Iran reported 15 new cases of coronavirus infections on Sunday and three more deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 43 and the death toll to eight. 

The outbreak is the largest in the Middle East, where authorities in Israel, Lebanon, and the UAE have recorded cases but no fatalities. 

"So far, we have 43 infected cases and the death toll is eight," Kianush Jahanpur, the Iranian health ministry spokesman, said on state TV.

Iran: Hardliners expected to sweep 11th parliamentary elections
Read More »

The first case was reported on the eve of the Islamic Republic's general elections, which were held on Friday. Results are due to be announced later on Sunday. 

China, where the virus originated, has so far reported a total of 76,936 cases of the disease caused by the virus, known as Covid-19, including 2,442 deaths.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the virus reached the country through an Iranian merchant from the holy city of Qom who used to travel to China regularly.

"Flights were suspended between the two countries, but he used indirect flights," Namaki said on Sunday, urging people not to travel to Qom, a pilgrimage destination 120km south of the capital Tehran. 

Most infections have been detected in Qom, according to the ministry.

The outbreak has prompted authorities to shut down schools and religious seminaries in the city indefinitely, while Tehran and a number of other cities have suspended schools until Tuesday.

Turkey closes border

Turkey will close its border with Iran as a precautionary measure to halt the potential spread of coronavirus, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Sunday.

All highways and railways will be closed as of 5pm (1400 GMT) on Sunday and flights from Iran suspended, he told reporters.

Five people in the southeastern Turkish city of Van were found to not have coronavirus after being put under observation, Koca said. Turkey has been monitoring the border with thermal cameras in recent days, he added.

Israel returns non-Israelis on flight from South Korea amid coronavirus fears
Read More »

There are three main land crossings along the roughly 500km border between Turkey's southeast and Iran's northwest.

Jordan said on Sunday it would bar entry to citizens of China, Iran and South Korea and other foreigners travelling from those countries in response to the outbreak.

Amjad Adayleh, the minister of state for media affairs, said the decision was part of "preemptive measures... following the rise in cases of coronavirus in South Korea, Iran" and China.

Adayleh said the ban would be "temporary" and imposed on all non-Jordanians coming from the three nations among the worst affected by the illness.

"Jordanians who come from those countries will be placed in quarantine for two weeks to ensure they have not contracted the coronavirus," he said.

Afghanistan said on Sunday it had suspended air and road travel to and from the Islamic Republic.

Iraq said on Sunday it had extended an entry ban for any non-Iraqis coming from Iran. 

The two countries are home to various religious pilgrimage sites. Iraqi Airways has suspended flights to Iran, while Iran banned religious trips to Iraq in the aftermath of the virus outbreak.

'Negative propaganda'

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused foreign media on Sunday of trying to discourage people from voting in Friday's elections, using reports about the virus. 

Despite reports of voter apathy as a result of the disqualification of most moderate and reformist candidates, Khamenei hailed the "huge participation" that challenged the "negative propaganda".

It "began a few months ago and grew larger approaching the election and in the past two days, under the pretext of an illness and a virus," he said.

Iran's interior minister said on Sunday that turnout in election was around 42 percent, state TV reported, the lowest participation since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that swept the clerical rulers into power.

Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said more than 24 million people out of 58 million eligible voters participated in the vote.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.