Iran‘s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose by 149 to 1,433 on Friday, a health ministry official tweeted, adding that that total number of confirmed infections had increased by 1,237 to 19,644.
Iran is one of the countries outside China most affected by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Iran‘s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech on state media for the Persian New Year, praised Iranians for their “dazzling” sacrifices in fighting the coronavirus outbreak in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Khamenei, Iran‘s highest authority, said it had been a tumultuous year for Iranians who have endured U.S. sanctions, floods, and now the coronavirus.
“These acts of sacrifice were made by medical groups, physicians, nurses, assistants, managers and the staff working in hospitals,” said Khamenei, who looked healthy despite rumors that he had been infected with the new coronavirus.
Officials close to Khamenei, contacted by Reuters on Wednesday, denied the rumors.
Nowruz, or “new day” in Persian, is an ancient celebration and the most important date in the calendar, when families gather and exchange gifts. But the coronavirus has overshadowed the celebrations.
“Last year was a tumultuous year for the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “It was a year that began with the floods and that ended with the coronavirus … but we will overcome all hardships with unity.”
Millions of Iranians are now confined within their own walls for the celebrations. But police said many defied warnings by health officials to stay home and avoid crowds by heading to the Caspian coast, a favorite destination during the Nowruz holidays.