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26 February, 2020 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 February, 2020 01:17:02 AM
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COVID-19 outbreak

Iranian minister tested positive

Croatia reports first case
AFP, Tehran
Iranian minister tested positive

Iran's deputy health minister confirmed yesterday that he has tested positive for the new coronavirus, amid a major outbreak in the Islamic republic. Harirchi coughed occasionally and appeared to be sweating during a press conference in Tehran on Monday with government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

At the time he denied a lawmaker's claim that 50 people had died from the virus in the Shiite shrine city of Qom, saying he would resign if the number proved to be true.

In a video broadcast on state television, the deputy minister put on a brave face as he admitted he was infected.

"I too have been infected with coronavirus," Harirchi said in the video apparently shot by himself. "I had a fever as of last night and my preliminary test was positive around midnight," he said.

"I've isolated myself in a place since. A few minutes ago, I was told that my final test was final, and now I am starting medication. "I wanted to tell you that... we will definitely be

victorious against this virus in the next few weeks," Harirchi declared. But he warned Iranians to be careful as the "virus does not discriminate" and infects anyone, regardless of standing.

Following news of his infection, government spokesman Rabiei, who stood by his side on Monday, appeared at another press conference with the country's industries minister on Tuesday as well as other officials. Iran confirmed three more deaths and 34 new infections yesterday, taking the country's overall death toll to 15 and infection tally to 95.

The Islamic republic has been hit by the deadliest coronavirus outbreak by far outside China. According to the health ministry, most of the deaths and infections outside Qom are among people who have recently visited the holy city.

The ministry's spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 16 of the new cases were confirmed in Qom, while nine were in Tehran, and two each in Alborz, Gilan and Mazandaran. The virus appeared to be spreading to new parts of Iran, as one new case was also reported in each of the provinces of Fars and Khorasan Razavi, as well as Qeshm island.

Despite being Iran's epicentre of the outbreak, Qom has yet to be quarantined. Health minister Saeed Namaki defended the decision yesterday and said that quarantine is an "old method".

"We still do not agree with quarantining cities since we believe the people are cultured enough to refrain from travelling from infected cities to other places," semi-official news agency ISNA quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Croatia reported the first known case of the new coronavirus in the Balkans region yesterday after a man who recently returned from Italy was found to be infected. The announcement comes as Italy battles an outbreak of the virus, named COVID-19, with infections surging to nearly 300 in a matter of days, making it the hardest-hit country in Europe.

"It has been confirmed that the first patient was infected with the COVID-19 virus," Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told a press conference.

The patient is a young man "showing mild symptoms", he added. The man, who is in hospital in the Croatian capital Zagreb, spent several days in Milan last week, said Health Minister Vili Beros.

"At this moment we will concentrate on the contacts this young man had," said Beros. "For now, he shows signs of a milder disease and we hope it will remain that way," he said, vowing to "raise our level preparedness and defence" against the spread of the disease.

At the moment, however, face masks are sold out across the nation, Beros said, promising to get new supplies as soon as possible.There are fears northern Croatia could be hit by the virus as many locals go to Italy for work.

Local media reported that nine Croatian citizens who recently returned from Italy's worst-hit Lombardy region have been hospitalised in the northern city of Rijeka.

"One patient who has symptoms is isolated, we expect results of (tests) in the afternoon," said Rijeka hospital chief Davor Stimac. Italy, which lies across the Adriatic from Croatia, has seen a huge surge in cases in recent days -- from six to more than 283 since Friday.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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