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Tehran (AFP) – Iran warned Sunday of a resurgence of the novel coronavirus as it reported 51 new deaths, almost a month after it started to relax a nationwide lockdown.

Authorities reimposed more stringent measures in the southwestern Khuzestan province, reversing a phased return to work meant to revitalise the battered economy.

“The situation should in no way be considered normal” in Iran, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in televised remarks.

“This virus will be present” for the time being, he added, in the country that has suffered the most deadly outbreak in the Middle East.

The new fatalities raised the overall confirmed death toll to 6,640 since the country reported its first cases in February 19.

Iran has allowed a phased return to work since April 11 and has since also reopened mosques in parts of the country deemed to be at low risk.

But Jahanpour said Iran was “witnessing a critical situation in Khuzestan province and to an extent in Tehran”.

Both the capital Tehran and Khuzestan remained at “red”, the top level of its colour-coded risk scale.

In the capital, a member of the virus taskforce warned that current health protocols could not contain the spread of the illness in Tehran.

“With businesses reopening, people have forgotten about the protocols,” Ali Maher told ISNA news agency.

“Maybe it was too soon” for a return to normal life, Maher said.

– Over 100,000 cases –

The situation is Khuzestan meanwhile quashed hopes that the virus would die in warmer climates.

Khuzestan’s governor Ali Shariati said that state bodies, banks and non-essential businesses in nine counties would be shut down again and inter-city movements limited.

This aimed to “prevent the coronavirus’ spread from getting out of hand” and would remain in force until further notice, state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile said in a televised meeting that schools would partially reopen next Saturday.

This applied only “for students seeking to meet and talk to their teachers” and attendance would not be mandatory, he said.

Cinemas, stadiums and universities remain closed across Iran.

Jahanpour also said that 1,383 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, raising total infections to 107,603.

Out of those hospitalised, 86,143 had recovered and were discharged, but 2,675 were in critical condition.

Experts and officials both in Iran and abroad have cast doubt over the country’s COVID-19 figures, saying the actual number of cases could be much higher.

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Pakistan blast: At least seven dead in Peshawar school attack

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At least seven people have died after an explosion during a class at a religious school in Pakistan, police have said.

Children of various age groups are among the dead, an officer at the scene told the BBC.

Dozens of others were injured in the attack, which took place in the northern city of Peshawar.

No group has yet claimed responsibility. An investigation has been launched.

The city of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, has seen some of the worst of the violence during the Taliban insurgency in recent years.

Six years ago, gunmen stormed a military school in the city leaving more than 150 dead, including many children.

What happened?

The blast took place at about 08:30 local time (03:30 GMT), police told the BBC.

About 60 people are understood to have been in the class at the religious school, known as a madrassa.

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An eyewitness has told the police he saw a man enter the building with a bag of explosives shortly before the blast.

news agency that two teachers were injured.

Hospital officials told Reuters news agency that they had received dozens of injured, many with burns.

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Duterte seeks best Covid vaccine deal but ‘will not beg’ or allow private suppliers to rip off Philippines

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would pursue a direct government-to-government deal for a coronavirus vaccine with either China or Russia, warning that ‘corrupt’ private suppliers could try to swindle his country.

“Let me tell everybody that we will not beg, we will pay,” Duterte said in a televised address on Monday night, adding that while Manila is not seeking charity it also aims to sign a direct government-to-government deal without intermediaries.

The president did not indicate the status of vaccine negotiations with Beijing or Moscow, saying he merely mentioned the two countries as possible sources out of a “sense of urgency,” and that “all options” were still on the table. 

The one that could give us the best interest for the country will be chosen.

Duterte stressed the need to obtain an inoculation directly from a friendly foreign state, rather than a private business, warning that such transactions could only bring “trouble” and that a government deal would mean “no corruption.”




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Western pharma is ‘all about profit’: Philippines’ Duterte vows to solely procure coronavirus vaccines from Russia & China



Under its proposed national budget for 2021, Manila will devote some 2.5 billion Philippine pesos ($51.6 million) to vaccine procurement, which Duterte said would be overseen by Finance Secretary Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III.

“Since he is going to pay, I will listen to Sonny. If there are no funds, he will go to jail,” the president said, apparently threatening prison time for a member of his own cabinet.

Duterte previously torched Western pharma firms developing coronavirus immunizations, saying they were “all about profit,” pointing to some companies who asked for a “cash advance before they deliver the vaccine.” The leader gave a stern warning to any company who offered similar proposals, vowing “I’ll kick your a**.”

Though the president has offered to be the first in his country to take the jab developed in Russia, Sputnik V, it is not clear whether such an arrangement has been made. However, Moscow’s ambassador to the island nation, Igor Khovaev, recently stated the jab could be available to the Philippines by the end of the year.




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Sputnik V questions ANSWERED: Head of team financing world’s first Covid-19 vaccine explains formula to critics



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At least 7 killed, 70 wounded after bomb goes off at religious school in Pakistan – hospital official

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At least seven people were killed and more than 70 wounded in an explosion inside a seminary in northern Pakistan on Tuesday morning. Children are among the victims.

The blast took place in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Senior police official Wagar Azim told AFP that a bomb brought inside the Speen Jammat mosque, which also functions as a religious school for local children, went off in the middle of Quran studi

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