Iran on Thursday said that it had asked for an emergency US$5 billion loan from the IMF to help fight the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 10,000 people and killed hundreds in the country.
Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced in a now-daily televised news conference that 75 people had died in the prior 24 hours and more than 1,000 new cases of infection had been confirmed, pushing the death toll to 429 and confirmed cases to 10,075.
Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday on Twitter urged the IMF to “stand on right side of history & act responsibly” by releasing the funds through its Rapid Financial Instrument.
Central Bank of the Islamic Republic Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati said that he last week made the request for US$5 billion in a letter to IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva.
The IMF has said that it stands ready to support countries battling the virus.
Zarif has urged countries to assist Iran by providing N95 respirators, ventilators, surgical gowns, testing kits and other medical supplies. The WHO sent a shipment of medical gear, including 1,100 virus testing kits that can test more than 105,000 people.
Iran’s economy has been battered by US sanctions, which have choked Tehran’s ability to sell its oil.
The outbreak has compounded its economic woes, with all of Iran’s neighbors closing their borders to Iranians and multiple nations cutting travel links with Iran, including shipping in some cases, which is affecting imports, as well.
Multiple top officials in Iran — from the senior vice president to Cabinet ministers and members of parliament to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, health workers and health ministry officials — have contracted the virus. Some of those officials have died.
There are concerns that the number of infections across Iran is much higher than the confirmed cases reported by the government, which is struggling to contain or manage its spread. The rising casualty figures each day in Iran suggest that the fight against the new coronavirus is far from over.
Outside of Iran, only Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon have recorded deaths from the virus in the Middle East. Iran has one of the world’s worst death tolls outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Confirmed cases in Israel on Thursday rose to 100, alongside 31 cases in the West Bank and none reported in the Gaza Strip.
A third Lebanese man died from the coronavirus, state-run media reported.
Qatar late on Wednesday reported a massive jump in coronavirus cases, with 262 infected. The more than 200 new cases had been found in quarantine.
In Bahrain, confirmed cases also rose by nearly 70 percent to 189, after about 77 new cases were confirmed on a flight of Bahrainis returning from Iran.
Kuwait on Thursday closed all workplaces and nonessential business for two weeks, including restaurants, cafes and health clubs. Schools and universities have already been suspended.
Egypt late on Wednesday reported seven more cases, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 67.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
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