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EghtesadOnline: Qatar's emir said the Persian Gulf Arab state will not hesitate to assist Tehran in combating the coronavirus outbreak and they will support Iranian people and its government during these trying times.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani also welcomed the idea of activating a coronavirus health protocol for trade and travel between the neighboring countries in a phone call with President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday, IRNA reported.

Sheikh Tamim offered his condolences to Iranian families that have lost their loved ones due to the COVID-19 virus and stressed that he firmly believed in Iran's healthcare system and the expertise of its medical staff, according to Financial Tribune.

The top official made his first visit to Iran mid-January.

"Iran has adopted special health protocols for trade and travel," Rouhani said in his phone call with Qatar's emir and pointed out that the two countries can resume flights by closely following such protocols.

Health officials announced that the number of confirmed cases of the infection in Iran increased from 388 to 593 on Saturday, including 43 who have died from the highly contagious disease.

The novel coronavirus has spread to 26 out of 31 provinces in Iran, with central and northern parts reporting the majority of victims.


Coronavirus Containment

Tehran has reduced employees' working hours to halt the flu-like disease. All governmental and non-governmental public workplaces will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time until further notice.

Restaurants distributing food in offices are banned from serving meals.

State institutions can offer options of teleworking or leave of absence to those who are most at risk from the virus, including the elderly, pregnant women and women who breastfeed or have children under three. 

An official from Qom's medical university said that starting Sunday, they will check anyone who wants to leave the city for symptoms of coronavirus, and they will not be allowed to leave the epicenter if they show any signs of the infection. The central city of Qom is the hotspot of the disease in Iran.


Fake News 

Health official Kianoush Jahanpour said on Saturday rumors circulating in foreign media outlets about the discrepancy in the number of fatalities are unfounded. 

Jahanpour was referring to a BBC Persian report that speculated that the death toll due to COVID-19 in Iran is more than 200. As of Feb. 29, Iran had reported 43 deaths.

The official specified the process of confirming a patient’s disease, saying that the Health Ministry does not count those who test positive in preliminary tests in the statistics announced on a daily basis.

"Until the results are confirmed, we do not include them in our official numbers," Jahanpour said. 

The official noted that only 10-15% of the test results from the suspected patients emerge positive.

Jahanpour said many patients are suffering from other acute respiratory diseases.


Iran Tehran Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani Qatar Stand by Emir Assist Outbreak coronavirus epidemic COVID-19