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COVID-19: Iranian Government Spokesman Hospitalized; Kosovo Restaurant Owners Protest Restrictions

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Protesters gathered outside the main government building in Pristina, where they threw away cardboard keys to symbolize the lost business they've suffered due to the restrictions.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 640,000, with more than 16 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

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

Iran

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei has been hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus, the latest Iranian official said to have been infected with the virus.

Rabiei had been staying at home since last week, according to state-run television.

Two vice presidents, the tourism minister, a member of the Expediency Council, and a number of parliament members are among the Iranian officials who have been infected with the coronavirus.

Iran has the highest number of recorded cases of infections and deaths in the Middle East.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on July 27 there had been a total of 293,606 cases in the country.

The latest daily death toll of 212 brought the total number of deaths to 15,912.

Kosovo

Hundreds of restaurant and cafe owners have demonstrated in Kosovo's capital to protest government restrictions imposed on their businesses to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and to demand relief measures.

Due to a spike in coronavirus cases, the government mandated from July 6 that those businesses must be closed from 9 p.m to 5 a.m.

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Protesters gathered outside the main government building in Pristina, where they threw away cardboard keys to symbolize the lost business they've suffered due to the restrictions.

Police deployed to the protest and in front of the government and parliament complex urged the protesters to disperse, warning them that they were violating pandemic restrictions.

Protest organizer Petrit Kllokoqi said the owners want subsides for salaries, support for 50 percent of rent, and other help.

"We are not being supported by the state. That is what we are asking for," he said.

Kllokoqi said that unless the demands are met, the protest will be repeated next week. "Next time we will bring our cash registers. We will stop being fiscally responsible if you remain morally irresponsible," he added.

Kosovo saw a big increase in new coronavirus cases in May, after a relaxation of measures that were aimed at slowing the spread.

The government reimposed some lockdown measures, including limiting the operation hours for cafes and restaurants.

As of July 27, the authorities have reported more than 6,900 coronavirus cases, with 169 deaths.

Central Asia

Uzbek authorities have extended restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus until August 15 amid reports of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Central Asia's most populous country of 32 million.

The state commission on measures to slow the outbreak said on July 26 that as of July 31, when one of the most important Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha, is marked, and the weekend of August 1-2, all transport services nationwide will be suspended.

The commission also said that the restrictions had been prolonged "due to the worsening epidemiological situation in the country."

The restrictions include limiting operations of transportation, including interregional links, and the suspension of operations at markets, large nonfood shops, parks, and entertainment and sports venues.

Family celebrations and ceremonies have been banned as well.

Almost all employees at state companies and entities have been working remotely, with meetings and conferences being held via video links.

Outdoor gatherings of more than three people have been prohibited and the movement of individuals over the age of 65 has been restricted.

Uzbek health authorities said on July 27 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country was 20,820, including 117 deaths.

In neighboring Kazakhstan, officials said on July 27 that the governor of the southern Talghar district, Zholan Omarov, had died of pneumonia at the age of 41.

Kazakh health officials have said that as of August 1 they will start adding victims of acute pneumonia to the COVID-19 death toll.

As of July 27, the number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan was reported at 83,122, including 610 deaths.

In Kyrgyzstan, health officials announced earlier in July that they had started adding people who died of acute pneumonia to the statistics of the COVID-19 victims.

According to the Health Ministry, the number of coronavirus cases in Kyrgyzstan as of July 27 was 33,296, of whom 21,205 had recovered and 1,301 patients had died.

In Tajikistan, Health Minister Jamoliddin Abdullozoda said on July 24, that not a single medical worker had become infected with coronavirus since it was officially registered in the country in April.

Health authorities said on July 27 that in the previous 24 hours, 42 new coronavirus cases were registered in the country, bringing the total number to 7,192, of whom 59 people died.

However, an investigative report by RFE/RL's Tajik Service last month revealed that the real number of lethal cases of COVID-19 in the country might be several hundreds, including dozens of physicians and nurses who treated COVID-19 patients.

RFE/RL's Coronavirus Crisis Archive

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Turkmenistan is the only country in the region that has not officially registered any coronavirus cases, but RFE/RL correspondents have reported that local hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients with pneumonia symptoms, some of whom, including medical personnel, have died.

In some parts of the country, so-called quarantine zones have been established and some industrial facilities are being shut down.

The leader of a World Health Organization mission, Catherine Smallwood, told a press conference in Ashgabat on July 15 that the mission had concerns about reports of pneumonia in the tightly controlled energy-rich country.

Smallwood advised the Turkmen government to activate "critical public-health measures in Turkmenistan, as if COVID-19 was circulating."

With reporting By RFE/RL's Balkan, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Radio Farda, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek, services, and AP, Reuters, and dpa
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