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Iran marks somber Nowruz amid coronavirus

Iran’s top leadership on Friday said the country will overcome the coronavirus pandemic through unity — in speeches delivered on Nowruz, the Persian new year.

President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released video messages at a time when Iran has reported over 1,400 deaths from the virus.

Tehran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the pandemic, which according to Iranian officials is killing six people every hour in the country.

Rouhani said health will remain top of agenda in the new year, according to state-run IRNA.

The president praised the efforts, sacrifice and courage exhibited by all Iranians, especially the medical staff.

He added: “Enemies fancied they will bring the Iranian nation to its knees.”

However, the nation sailed through all the challenges by managing the economy without relying on oil revenues, he said.

U.S. sanctions on Iran has sucked its main stream of revenue — oil — despite pleas by China and others to relax them in the wake of the deadly outbreak.

Khamenei underlined in his message that last year was a “tumultuous” year for the Iranian nation.

“It was a year that began with the floods and ended with the coronavirus,” Khamenei said.

Khamenei added that the peak of those incidents was the U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 3.

The leader also praised the sacrifices made by health workers and volunteers.

“All these phenomena are a source of dignity and reputation,” Khamenei said.

The confirmed cases in Iran have exceeded 19,500, amid fears that the figures will rise further.

The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December has spread to at least 160 countries and regions around the globe, while the tally of confirmed cases exceeded 244,500, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll has exceeded 10,000 causing a chain reaction as government place countries under lockdown to avert the spread of the virus.

China, Italy, Iran, and Spain continue to be the most affected countries.

Despite the rising number of cases, a vast majority of those infected by the virus suffer mild symptoms and recover.

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