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Iran Locks Down A Key Oil Center To Prevent A Worsening Of Epidemic

A COVID-19 patient being treated in Abadan. May 10, 2020
A COVID-19 patient being treated in Abadan. May 10, 2020

An important oil industry center in southwestern Iran has been placed under lockdown to prevent the spread a worsening of coronavirus crisis, Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday, also quoting the provincial governor as saying there had been a sharp rise in new cases across the province.

Tasnim quoted Gholamreza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan province, which borders Iraq and includes the county of Abadan, as saying people had not been observing social distancing rules.

"Because of this the number of corona patients in the province has tripled and the hospitalization of patients has risen by 60 percent," Shariati said.

Banks and offices in Abadan will be closed until the end of the week and entry corridors to the county from the north and east have been closed, according to Tasnim.

Offices will be closed and travel restrictions will also apply to nine other counties in oil-rich Khuzestan, Tasnim cited Shariati as saying.

However Iran has begun easing restrictions on normal life in order to keep afloat its economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions. Health officials have repeatedly warned, however, that easing restrictions could lead to a boost in the number of infections.

On Friday, prayer gatherings resumed in up to 180 Iranian cities and towns seen at low risk of coronavirus contagion after a two-month suspension, state media reported.

The resumption of Friday prayers -- still banned in the capital Tehran and some other major cities -- followed the reopening last Monday of 132 mosques in areas consistently free of the virus.

Coronavirus infections in Tehran are still rising, the ISNA news agency reported on Sunday, citing a local official.

The total number of deaths from coronavirus rose by 51 in the past 24 hours to 6,640, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV on Sunday. A total 107,603 cases have been diagnosed, he said.

Reporting by Reuters