Iran’s leaders say ‘unity and hard work’ will beat coronavirus as death toll climbs

Iran’s leaders vowed to overcome the new coronavirus outbreak in upbeat messages marking the Persian New Year on Friday, even as the Health Ministry announced 149 more fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 1,433.

Iran is battling the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with nearly 20,000 confirmed cases, and has been widely criticized for its slow response.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, called the new year “the year of leaps in production” in Iran’s economy, which has been under heavy U.S. sanctions since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord.

President Hassan Rouhani also marked the new year, known as Nowruz, by promising a better economy. “We will put the coronavirus behind us soon with unity, with hard work and with co-operation,” he said.

Most people who come down with the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus experience only minor symptoms and recover within weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by people showing no symptoms. It can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, particularly in sick or elderly patients.

More than 240,000 people have been infected worldwide. More than 10,000 have died, while more than 85,000 have recovered.

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