Coronavirus: Iran Friday prayers cancelled because of outbreak

Iran has overtaken Italy to become the country worst hit by Covid-19 outside China

An Iranian medic treats a patient infected with the COVID-19 virus at a hospital in Tehran on March 1, 2020. A plane carrying UN medical experts and aid touched down on March 2, 2020, in Iran on a mission to help it tackle the world's second-deadliest outbreak of coronavirus as European powers said they would send further help. - === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / MIZAN NEWS AGENCY" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ===
 / AFP / MIZAN NEWS AGENCY / KOOSHA MAHSHID FALAHI / === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / MIZAN NEWS AGENCY" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ===

Friday prayers in Iran have been suspended across all provincial capitals as the country grapples with a growing coronavirus crisis.

Authorities announced on state TV the prayers would be cancelled in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as Covid-19, that has infected thousands in the Islamic republic.

The move has been seen as significant because of the important political, as well as spiritual role, that Friday prayers play for Iran’s clerical regime.

The Wednesday ban followed an earlier cancellation of last week’s Friday prayers in Tehran as well as other areas.

Iran, which has become the country worst hit by the coronavirus outside of China, has seen the death toll from the disease rise over the course of recent weeks.

Earlier, Tehran announced the new coronavirus had killed 92 people with 2,922 confirmed cases across the country. Cases in Iran represent the vast majority of those across the Middle East, where 3,140 have been reported in total.

Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the new figures at a news conference. The spike in infections raised the death toll in Iran higher than the levels seen in Italy, where there has also been a dramatic spike in infections.

Experts fear the high death rate in Iran in comparison to the country’s number of cases indicates Tehran may be underreporting the total number suffering from the illness.

The coronavirus has also infected high-ranking members of the Iranian political elite, in a way not seen elsewhere. Among those sickened by Covid-19 are a vice president, the deputy health minister and 23 members of parliament.

At least one senior official, Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council, has died from the disease, according to Iranian state media.

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