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Monday, September 21, 2020, 22:28
Iran virus cases near record high, Khamenei warns on pilgrimage
By Agencies
Monday, September 21, 2020, 22:28 By Agencies

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sept 21, 2020 shows him next to a picture of his predecessor Imam Ruhollah Khomeini while mask-clad as he attends by video conference in the capital Tehran the ceremony marking the start of the "Sacred Defence Week" commemorating the 40th anniversary of its 1980-88 bloody war with Iraq. (PHOTO / KHAMENEI.IR / AFP)

WELLINGTON / DUBAI / SYDNEY / BAGHDAD / SEOUL / KUALA LUMPUR / KUWAIT CITY / DOHA / YANGON / COLOMBO / HANOI - Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged people to forgo a major religious pilgrimage next month as the country reported its second-highest number of daily coronavirus cases. 

Some 3,341 new infections were registered in Iran in the past 24 hours -- the most since a June 4 record of 3,574 -- and 177 people died, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

In a speech shown on state TV on Monday, Khamenei instructed Iranians to follow government orders to steer clear of the Oct 8 Arba’een Shia gathering in Iraq, which normally attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world annually to the city of Karbala.

With a total 425,481 infections and 24,478 deaths, Iran has the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak. Cases have surged since a public religious holiday in late August where tens of thousands took part in group mourning ceremonies and traveled between provinces.


Afghanistan on Monday reported 30 new COVID-19 cases after health authorities conducted 165 tests within a day, bringing the number of total cases in the country to 39,074, including 32,576 who recovered from the virus, the country's Ministry of Public Health said.

The new COVID-19 cases were reported in six out of Afghanistan's 34 provinces during the past 24 hours, the ministry said in a statement.


Australia’s coronavirus hotspot of Victoria reported on Monday a steady downward trend in daily coronavirus cases, putting the state on course to ease more restrictions by next week.

The two-week average rise in cases in Melbourne, the state capital, dropped below 35 on Monday, on track to meet a target of below 50 cases by Sept 28 when the authorities have said they may relax restrictions in the city.

Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, is on an extended hard lockdown until Sept 28, but authorities lifted some restrictions last week allowing residents to leave their homes for longer periods for exercise and shortened a nightly curfew.

The strict restrictions on movement have brought the daily coronavirus cases in the state down to double digits after it touched highs of 700 in early August.


Bangladesh reported 1,705 new COVID-19 cases and 40 new deaths on Monday, bringing the total cases in the country to 350,621 and the total deaths to 4,979, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

The official data showed that 13,053 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.

The total number of recovered patients in the country stood at 258,717 including 2,152 new recoveries on Monday, said the DGHS.

Bangladesh has authorized the use of antigen tests for the first time to detect and treat COVID-19 infections.

Bilkis Begum, a Health Ministry official, told journalists on Monday that they had already issued a circular in this connection.

According to the circular, antigen-based testing has been permitted in all the public health institutions as per the proposal of the government's health directorate in compliance with the interim guidelines of the World Health Organization.

People walk past a sale sign displayed in a shop window in the affluent Garuso-gil shopping street in Seoul on Sept 15, 2020. (ED JONES / AFP)


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India Monday morning rose to 5,487,580, India's federal health ministry said.

During the past 24 hours, 86,961 new cases were reported from across the country and 1,130 more deaths were also recorded.

"The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across India is 5,487,580 and death toll is 87,882," reads the information released by the ministry.

According to ministry officials, 4,396,399 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.


Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi had tested positive for COVID-19, a special staff member to the minister said in a statement on Monday.

Indonesia’s capital is adding thousands of beds to house COVID-19 patients as its health system struggles with record increases in virus cases.

The system is “already overwhelmed,” said Jossep William, coordinator of volunteer department at the task force for handling the pandemic, adding that ambulances haven’t stopped running for days to transport patients. “We can still contain the patient flow for now but if it continues like this, our health system will collapse.”

The country reported the highest increase in virus cases since the pandemic began, adding 4,176 confirmed infections on Monday to bring the total to 248,852, of which a quarter is in the capital. Indonesia has marked fresh records in the number of new cases every few days in September.


In Iran, the hardest hit country in the Middle East, the overall number of coronavirus cases has grown to 422,140 after 3,097 new infections were detected in the past 24 hours, while the pandemic has so far claimed the lives of 24,301 Iranians, up by 183 in the past 24 hours, according to Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Iranian health ministry.

She said 1,272 patients were hospitalized because of complications from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, while 3,898 remain in critical condition.

It is worth noting that 24 out of 31 Iranian provinces are in high-risk condition in terms of COVID-19 infection.

Data issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health on Sunday showed that the proportion of coronavirus cases among people under the age of 20 in Israel has risen significantly to almost a third of all detected so far in the country.


Iraq on Sunday announced its decision to ban the entry of foreign travellers into the country, citing "the increasing number of coronavirus infections in neighboring countries.

The ban imposed by Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety came as as the Iraqi Health Ministry reported 3,438 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number in the country to 319,035.

The ministry also confirmed 64 new fatalities from the infectious disease, taking the death toll to 8,555, while 4,052 more patients recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 253,591.

Having been recording one of the highest numbers in daily infections since early August, Iraq has been struggling against the coronavirus pandemic amid a gradual ease of anti-virus restrictions.

As for the preparations for the upcoming Shi'ite ritual of Arbaeen, Iraqi Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said his ministry "has prepared an integrated plan in coordination with health institutions in all Iraqi provinces," expressing hope for "no increase in the number of coronavirus infections after Arbaeen."

Iraqi men walk at al-Ahrar Bridge on September 18, 2020 in Baghdad. Iraq has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the Middle East by Covid-19, with more than 280,000 infections and nearly 8,000 deaths. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)


Israel's coronavirus cabinet will convene on Tuesday to discuss tightening the nationwide lockdown in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 infections and mortality, the government said on Monday.

The ministers will discuss the "current morbidity situation and possible further restrictions," a government spokesperson said in a statement.

Officials with the health ministry told the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily that the main measure under consideration is to impose further restrictions on working places in the public and private sectors.

A three-week lockdown was imposed on Friday, requiring many businesses to stay closed and setting strict limits on movements and gatherings.

Some 4,300 new cases were reported on Sunday, bringing the total cases to 187,902, according to official figures.

The number of overall fatalities reached 1,256, while the number of patients in serious condition rose to a record high of 643.

READ MORE: India's coronavirus infections surge to 5.4 million


Kuwait on Monday reported 530 new COVID-19 cases and one more death, raising the tally of infections to 99,964 and the death toll to 585, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Currently, 8,449 patients are receiving treatment, including 93 in ICU, according to the statement.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 762 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 90,930.


Kyrgyzstan's tally of COVID-19 cases reached 45,471 on Monday, with 55 new cases reported in the past day, according to a report from the republican headquarters on COVID-19.

The report said that three of the new cases are medical workers, bringing the tally of contracted medical workers to 3,202.

Kyrgyzstan has partly resumed regular flights with Russia beginning Sept 21, the republican headquarters on COVID-19 said on Monday.


Lebanon hit a third consecutive day of record virus cases as Health Minister Hamad Hassan proposes a two-week lockdown, Associated Press reported.

Political gridlock after the devastating Beirut port explosion on Aug. 31, a previous lockdown and a shrinking economy are likely to make any solution more difficult.

Lebanon reported 1,006 new cases Sunday, for a total of 29,303.

ALSO READ: Philippines keeps 1-meter social distancing rule as virus cases soar


Malaysia reported 57 new COVID-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Monday, bringing the national total to 10,276.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that six of the new cases are imported and 51 are local transmissions.

Health authorities also detected one new case cluster, traced to a healthcare worker in the northern Borneo state of Sabah, with five testing positive so far.

Another 40 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total cured and discharged to 9,395, or 91.4 percent of all cases.

Of the remaining 751 active cases, nine are being held in intensive care and two of those are in need of assisted breathing.

No new deaths have been reported, leaving the total deaths at 130.


Myanmar plans to push ahead with a November general election despite calls from opposition parties to postpone it because of a surge in novel coronavirus cases, officials said.

The Southeast Asian country reported 671 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, its highest daily toll since the beginning of its outbreak in March, taking its total to 5,541 infections and 92 deaths.

Myanmar had gone weeks without a case of local transmission before an outbreak in August in the western region of Rakhine that has spread across the country.

Analysts say the Nov 8 election is a test of the extent of Myanmar’s democratic reforms.

Parties halted campaigning in the commercial capital of Yangon on Monday after authorities imposed a citywide lockdown, forcing the majority of its five million residents to work from home in the toughest measure yet to combat the virus.

But the polls will go ahead, the national election commission told reporters.


Nearly half of the COVID-19 patients in Nepal are staying in home isolation with the Nepali government prioritizing such facilities over hospitals for the asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic COVID-19 cases, Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population said.

According to the data from the ministry, there are a total of 17,478 active COVID-19 cases in Nepal as of Sunday. Of them, 8,407 patients, or about 48 percent of total active cases, have stayed in home isolation.

A cafe forced to close under restrictions places mannequins at the tables to mimic customers in Auckland on August 14, 2020. (DAVID ROWLAND / AFP)

New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in second-wave hotspot Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle.

Some restrictions were also eased in Auckland to allow gatherings of up to 100 people, but the country’s biggest city needed more time before all curbs could be lifted, Ardern said.

Auckland will move to alert level 2 from Thursday, Ardern said at a news conference on Monday, which will limit gatherings to 100 people.

The rest of the country will move to level 1 from midnight on Monday, she said.

The New Zealand government has committed to investing 27 million NZ dollars (US$18.3 million) in COVID-19 vaccine development through the global COVAX Facility, Deputy Prime minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters said on Monday.


The Omani health ministry on Monday announced 576 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 94,051, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.

Meanwhile, 363 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 85,781, while seven reportedly died, raising the tally of fatalities to 853, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.

The ministry urged everyone to adhere to social distancing instructions issued by the Supreme Committee and the ministry of health, as well as staying at home and avoiding going out unless necessary.


Palestine reported on Sunday 683 new COVID-19 cases and nine fatalities, raising the total number of infections in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to 45,446 and the death toll to 300.

In a press statement, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said four deaths were recorded in Hebron, four in Tulkarm, and one in Bethlehem. 


The Qatari health ministry on Monday announced 228 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 123,604, official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Meanwhile, 237 more recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 120,540, while the death toll increased by one to 211, according to a ministry statement quoted by QNA.

The ministry reiterated the need to take preventive measures, including staying at home and observing social distancing.

A total of 729,545 persons in Qatar have taken lab tests for COVID-19 so far.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia reported 483 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, the lowest daily increase in the kingdom since mid-April, raising the total cases in the kingdom to  329,754, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The current number of active cases in Saudi Arabia has dropped by more than 75 percent to 14,830, including 1,138 in the intensive care units, from the peak numbers, according to Mohammed Abdulaali, spokesman of the Saudi Health Ministry.

South Korea

Schools in the South Korean capital Seoul and nearby areas resumed in-person classes for the first time in almost a month on Monday after daily coronavirus cases dropped to the lowest levels since mid-August.

Students returned to schools under a hybrid schedule of in-person and online classes to limit the number of people at schools at any given time. Students will attend in-person classes once or twice a week.

Meanwhile, South Korea will strengthen social distancing rules from September 28 to October 11, which will be designated as special quarantine period as the country celebrates Chuseok holidays from September 30 to October 4.

South Korea added 70 more coronavirus cases in 24 hours compared with 82 a day earlier, according to data from Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The number of confirmed cases remained below 100 for a second day, the first time since mid-August.

Sri Lanka

The number of recoveries from the COVID-19 virus rose to 3,100 in Sri Lanka on Monday after 12 more patients were discharged from hospital, the Health Ministry said.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in the island country stood at 3,287, but with the latest number of recoveries, the active patient count has dropped to 187.

Authorities said that those who have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks have been among those repatriated from overseas and who had been under quarantine in the centers. No new patient has been detected from the communities for over a month.


A two-year-old Myanmar boy, who has tested positive for COVID-19 in Myanmar, was believed to have contracted the disease while traveling from Thailand to Myanmar earlier this month, according to an official report released on Sunday.

The report from the Disease Control Department of Thailand's Ministry of Public Health said the Myanmar boy was likely infected with the virus during the time when he was taken across the Thai-Myanmar border by his parents through a natural path in Mae Sot district of Tak province in western Thailand.

In this photo taken on September 8, 2020, passengers wearing face shields have their temperature taken before boarding a bus in Manila. (PHOTO / AFP)

The Philippines

The Philippines’ president has eased an overseas travel ban on Filipino nurses and other medical workers to allow more to take jobs abroad, his spokesman said on Monday, as his government believes it has its coronavirus outbreak under control.

Thousands of health workers, who call themselves “priso-nurses”, had appealed to the government to let them travel, Reuters reported last week. The nurses say they feel underpaid, under-appreciated and unprotected in the Philippines.

An official said that the Philippines’ purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines can only be made starting the second quarter of 2021 as delays hit the review of possible candidates. 

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged to 290,190 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,475 new daily cases on Monday.

The DOH said that the number of recoveries also rose to 230,233 after 400 more patients recovered. Meanwhile, 15 more patients died, bringing the death toll to 4,999.


The UAE health ministry also reported 761 more recoveries from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries in the UAE to 74,273.


Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Sunday that the increase in Turkey's daily coronavirus cases slowed down but not the number of severe patients, the latter of which has reached 1,456.

Turkey reported 1,519 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, raising the total confirmed number in the country to  302,867.

In addition, 61 people died in the past 24 hours from the virus, taking the death toll to 7,506, while the number of the total recoveries has risen to 267,233.


Vietnam reported no new case of COVID-19 infection on Monday, with its total confirmed cases standing at 1,068 with 35 deaths from the disease so far, according to its Ministry of Health.

Five more patients have been given all-clear, raising the total cured cases in the country to 947 as of Monday, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, over 24,600 people are being quarantined and monitored in the country, the ministry said.

Vietnam has gone through 19 straight days without any new COVID-19 case in the community, according to the ministry.

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