Lebanon bars citizens from religious pilgrimages over coronavirus fears

Lebanon bars citizens from religious pilgrimages over coronavirus fears
Lebanon bars citizens from religious pilgrimages over coronavirus fears

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Oman has reported two new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to four.

Iraq has also reported four new cases, after one other person was reported to have the disease.

Iran has 16 recorded deaths due to the virus – though that number could be as high as 50 (this has been denied by the Iranian government). 

Iran has the second highest number of fatalities outside of China.

Iran's deputy health minister said on Tuesday he had been diagnosed with the virus.

Flights to coronavirus-hit countries have also been restricted, the information minister said.

Lebanese Muslims regularly fly to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia for religious trips, including Mecca for Haj or Umrah.

Shia Muslims also regularly travel to Iran's holy city of Qom for pilgrimage.

Last week Lebanon revealed its first confirmed case of the virus, contracted by a 45-year-old woman who had returned to the country after visiting Iran.

This comes as tension between Tehran and Washington over the Shia state's apparent under-reporting of cases and deaths.

Tehran last week were forced to deny that 50 people had died as a result of the virus, claiming that number had at the time only stood at 13.

Since then, 16 people have been confirmed to have died by Iran, and the number of confirmed cases stands at 95 as of the writing of this article.

Now, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he's "deeply concerned" that the Iranian government have been suppressing important information about the outbreak in the country.

"The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country," he told reporters today.

"All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and co-operate with international aid organisations."

Iran's deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has tested positive for coronavirus, he said, adding that he was self-isolating and medicating following the diagnosis.

Despite the growing alarm in Iran and the Middle East, President Hassan Rouhani refuses to "shut down the country" and claims it is the "enemy's" plot to spread panic over coronavirus.

The coronavirus, or Covid-19 as it is called, is believed to have started in China’s Wuhan and spread across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Symptoms of the virus vary, but it can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. Sever cases report organ failure and death.

Antibiotics do not cure the illness, and though scientists are working on a cure, currently there is none.

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