COVID-19: Russia Again Reports New Record In Cases; Many Iranian Mosques To Reopen

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The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 244,000 with 3.4 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.

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 244,000 with 3.4 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.

Russia

Russia on May 3 registered more than 10,600 new coronavirus infections, marking a fresh one-day record increase amid expanded testing.

New infections jumped by 10,633 to 134,687 cases, the seventh-highest number globally, Russian authorities said. It is the second day in a row with a record number of infections after 9,623 were registered on May 2.

Russia is now the European country with the most registered new infections. But the official fatality rate is low in comparison to countries like Italy, Spain, and the United States.

Fifty-eight people died over the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 1,280, according to official figures. More than 15,000 people in Russia have recovered from the virus.

Among the infected is Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who announced on April 30 he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said the Russian capital, which has emerged as the epicenter of the contagion, was not yet past the peak of the outbreak and that he may further restrict the number of residents who can travel around the city.

“If we see any threat, of course, we will not hesitate for a minute. We will come out with a proposal to tighten these measures,” he told state television on May 2.

Muscovites can leave their homes to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, throw out trash, and walk their dogs. They need a government-issued digital pass to use public or private transport.

More than half of Russia's newly recorded cases -- 5,948 -- are in Moscow, bringing the capital's total to 68,606. Sobyanin said that about 2 percent of Moscow residents -- or more than 250,000 people -- have the coronavirus.

Officially, Moscow has a population of 12.7 million but the real figure is believed to be higher.

President Vladimir Putin has said the situation remains "very difficult."

However, Moscow's headquarters for monitoring of the coronavirus said the jump in registered cases is driven in part by greater testing and quicker turnaround of the results. The city now has 14 centers analyzing samples compared with just one previously, it said in a statement on May 2.

The headquarters also said that the greater testing is enabling the city to find people with the infection at an early stage and treat them before it becomes severe. That has enabled the city to keep the number of hospitalized stable at 1,700, even as the number of cases continues to grow, it said.

Despite the steady increase in cases, the government has indicated it could gradually lift restrictions from May 12, but the easing will depend on the region.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on state television that mosques would reopen in many low-risk regions of the country on May 4, after they were closed in early March as Iran was hit by the Middle East's deadliest coronavirus outbreak.

Rohani, in a televised meeting of the country's virus task force on May 3, said 132 counties, around one-third of Iran's administrative divisions, would "reopen their mosques as of tomorrow."

Iranians sit in their cars while taking part in a religious ceremony during the holy month of Ramadan in a parking in Tehran.
Iranians sit in their cars while taking part in a religious ceremony during the holy month of Ramadan in a parking in Tehran.

"Social distancing is more important than collective prayer," Rohani added, adding that Islam considers safety obligatory, while praying in mosques is only "recommended."

The counties earmarked for reopening are "low risk," Rohani said.

He said the committee was also considering reopening schools by May 16 to allow for a month of classes before the summer break.

The outbreak has killed more than 6,150 people and infected more than 96,440 in Iran since it announced its first cases in mid-February.

Iran on May 2 reported its lowest daily toll of new infections since March 10.

Experts and officials both in Iran and abroad have cast doubts about Iran's officially reported figures, saying the real number of cases could be much higher.

Iran has shut universities, cinemas, stadiums, and other public spaces since March.

But it has allowed a phased reopening of its economy since April 11, arguing that the sanctions-hit country cannot afford to remain shut down.

Only "high-risk" businesses like gyms and barbershops remain closed.

"We will continue the reopenings calmly and gradually," Rohani said.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Reuters
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