Coronavirus kills another 129 people in Iran, pushing death toll to 853
Tehran - Iran reported another 129 coronavirus deaths on Monday, pushing the total to 853, with the number of officially confirmed infections now at 14,991, the Health Ministry said.
Among the dead was 78-year-old Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country's supreme leader, Iranian media reported.
President Hassan Rowhani on Monday urged all Iranians to stay home for the Persian New Year on Friday and to avoid travelling over the festive period.
Police are to begin checking the temperature of motorists, he announced, adding to a raft of protective measures that includes the closure of schools, universities and even Iran's most sacred site.
The gate to the Imam Reza mausoleum in Mashhad, in northern Iran, where the eighth Shiite imam is buried, was closed on Monday to prevent pilgrims from becoming infected, according to the Fars news agency.
The shrine is visited by millions of pilgrims from Iran and abroad every year. Believers say a visit can heal even the worst illnesses, and therefore many believe they cannot catch the coronavirus there.
Khorasan Razavi province and Mashhad, its capital, are especially hit by the coronavirus, with even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forced to cancel his new year's speech planned for next Saturday.
Khamenei's speech in Mashhad is one of the most important religious and political events in the Islamic republic.
The Health Ministry has also banned all pilgrimages to the two holy cities of Mashhad and Qom, especially ahead of the Persian New Year.
Iran is suffering from the worst outbreak in the Middle East, which has infected even senior officials like the deputy health minister.
Heath Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said almost 5,000 Covid-19 patients have recovered at hospitals.
Most of the infections are in the capital, Tehran.dpa