Iran Supreme Leader Downplays Coronavirus as New Cases Surge

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(Bloomberg) --

Iran’s supreme leader downplayed the severity of the coronavirus even after the country reported the highest number of new cases. The impact of the virus is seeping into Middle East businesses and infections are spreading to new places.

“The coronavirus won’t affect the country for long & will leave,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Twitter on Tuesday. “I don’t want to say it’s unimportant, but let’s not exaggerate it either.”

Iran, which has the second-highest number of fatalities from the coronavirus, reported 835 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, taking the total to 2,336. The death toll climbed to 77 from 66, while 435 patients have recovered.

Twenty-three members of Iran’s parliament tested positive, the semi-official Young Journalists’ Club reported. Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of emergency medical services, also contracted the disease, the Fars news agency said.

Business conditions in the United Arab Emirates worsened and Saudi Arabia had the weakest increase in its non-oil private sector output since at least 2009 as disruptions caused by the virus rippled through the Gulf’s two biggest economies.

Emirates Group, which runs the world’s biggest airline by international traffic, has offered up to a month of leave to its staff as the outbreak saps demand for travel.

Mideast, North Africa Breakdown:

  • Iran: 2,336 cases, including 77 deaths
  • Kuwait: 56
  • Bahrain: 49
  • Iraq: 25
  • U.A.E.: 21
  • Lebanon: 13
  • Israel: 7
  • Qatar: 7
  • Oman: 6
  • Algeria: 5
  • Egypt: 2
  • Saudi Arabia: 1
  • Jordan: 1
  • Tunisia: 1
  • Morocco: 1

Latest Developments:

  • Art Dubai fair, backed by Piaget SA and Julius Baer Group, has been indefinitely postponed.
  • Qatar canceled the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference.
  • Morocco quarantined 120 passengers who traveled on a TUI flight with a Moroccan expat who contracted the virus, Chouf TV reported.
  • A World Health Organization team arrived in Iran on Monday with kits to test 100,000 people and protective garments for 15,000 health-care workers.
  • Iran said those who hoard medical supplies will face punishment, including death sentences.
    • Authorities seized 5 million face masks and 32 million pairs of mostly imported sanitary gloves.
    • 54,000 prisoners have been granted leave, courts instructed to give jail sentences only if necessary and an unknown number of new convicts will delay the start of their jail terms.
  • Dubai Boat Show, scheduled for this month, has been delayed until November.
  • G-7 Pledges Action; Trump Urges Large Rate Cut: Virus Update

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