Iran defends coronavirus response as deaths toll surpasses 1,000

Iran said its coronavirus death toll surpassed 1,000 on Wednesday as President Hassan Rouhani defended the response of his administration, which has yet to impose a lockdown.

The COVID-19 outbreak in sanctions-hit Iran is one of the deadliest outside China, where the disease originated.

Rouhani’s government said the virus has killed 1,135 people out of 17,161 cases of infection since it first emerged in the Islamic Republic a month ago.

“Some ask why the government isn’t intervening, but I think we have intervened significantly,” the president said.

“Great things have been done [including] measures no other country has taken,” he said in televised remarks after a weekly meeting of his cabinet.

“We will get past these hard days,” added Rouhani, who was flanked by ministers wearing face masks.

The health ministry said 5,710 people had overcome the virus.

One person who recovered was a 103-year-old woman, state media reported, despite overwhelming evidence that the elderly are the most at risk.

The unnamed woman had been hospitalised in the central city of Semnan for about a week, IRNA news agency said.

But she was “discharged after making a complete recovery”, Semnan University of Medical Sciences head Navid Danayi was quoted as saying.

The report did not say how she was treated.

Iran has yet to impose any lockdowns, but officials have repeatedly called on the public to stay home for the Iranian New Year holidays starting this week.

Since it announced its first two deaths in the holy Shia city of Qom on February 19, Iran has taken a series of additional steps to contain the virus.

It has closed schools and universities until early April, as well as four key pilgrimage sites, including the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom.

Iran has also cancelled the main weekly Friday prayers, and temporarily closed parliament.