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COVID-19: Iran Reports 122 New Deaths; Turkmenistan To Resume Pro Soccer Games

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An Islamic cleric in the Iranian city of Isfahan rests while while fighting the coronavirus.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 98,000 with more than 1.6 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Iran

Iran’s Health Ministry has reported 122 new deaths related to the coronavirus, taking the overall death toll in the Middle East’s worst-hit country to 4,232.

Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on April 10 that 1,972 new infections had been recorded in the previous 24 hours, putting the total at 68,192.

Jahanpour also said 35,465 people had recovered from the COVID-19 respiratory disease since the outbreak began in February.

"In the past 24 hours, we have unfortunately seen an increase in cases of disease in five to eight provinces, including Tehran," Jahanpour said.

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The announcement comes as Iran is set to reopen what officials call "low-risk" businesses.

President Hassan Rohani has ordered the country's economy to slowly begin opening back up starting April 11, leading to worries Iran could see a second wave of infections.

"Of course we don't want any more coronavirus victims; at the same time we don't want to let people starve to death," Rohani said on April 8, noting that many people had gone two months without being paid.

Iran’s economy is suffering under intense U.S. sanctions after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran announced its first coronavirus cases on February 19. Many experts have repeatedly said that the real number of deaths and infections in the country could be higher than reported by Iranian officials.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan plans to resume its suspended professional soccer season on April 19 with fans being allowed to attend matches despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Central Asian country's eight-team professional league suspended its season because of the pandemic on March 24. It has also held a number of mass sporting events in recent days.

Turkmenistan shares a 1,150-kilometer-long border with Iran, the country in the region that has been worst-hit by the coronavirus outbreak..

But the tightly controlled country has not declared a single case of coronavirus infection -- raising suspicion and international criticism about the reliability of the country's data on the deadly disease.

Turkmenistan is one of a handful of countries, including Belarus, Tajikistan, Nicaragua, and Burundi, that have continued to hold soccer matches during the pandemic.

Pakistan

Pakistan has planned reopening key sectors of the economy, a cabinet minister said amid warnings that a prolonged economic halt due to the coronavirus crisis could result in some 18 million job cuts, pushing more than half of the country’s population into poverty.

"We are going to resume key sectors that employs millions," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said on April 10.

Earlier this week, the government decided to allow people to resume work in the agriculture sector and reopen the construction and associated industries, such as cement and steel manufacturing, from April 14.

Awan said that the retail and transport sectors would be the next to come out of the three-week lockdown despite the number of infections climbing to more than 4,600.

RFE/RL's Coronavirus Crisis Archive

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Awan’s comments come a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan said that every provincial government would take a decision on April 14 whether to continue or ease the lockdown depending on the coronavirus situation in their respective regions.

A new study by the state-run Pakistan Institute of Development Economics predicted that more than 18 million jobs were at risk under the current strict restrictions.

It warned that the agriculture, construction, and retail sectors could be hit hardest.

"As a result, 120 million people or more than half of the population are at risk of falling beneath the poverty line," said Mahmood Khalid, a co-author of the study.

The United Nations estimates that around 40 percent of Pakistan's population already lives below the poverty line.

The government has announced a $7.1 billion rescue plan and Islamabad also expects up to $3 billion from donors in aid and new loans.

With reporting by dpa, Dawn.com, AFP, AP, and Reuters
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