Iran's army sets up hospital in capital as virus toll climbs
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran announced another 144 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday and said thousands more were in critical condition as the military completed work on a 2,000-bed field hospital in an exhibition center in the capital
Iran has reported nearly 2,400 deaths among more than 32,000 cases. Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control despite concerns it could overwhelm the country's health facilities.
The military said the new facility, which includes three units and several isolation wards, was set up in just 48 hours. It will be used for patients who are recovering from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus.
State TV on Thursday quoted Gen. Ali Jahanshahi, the army's deputy coordinator, as saying the hospital has been handed over to medical staff and will begin receiving patients next week.
Most people infected by the virus only experience mild symptoms, such as fever and cough, and recover within a few weeks. But the virus can cause severe illness and death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying health problems. It is highly contagious and can be spread by otherwise healthy people showing no visible symptoms.
The virus has infected more than half a million people worldwide and killed more than 24,000. More than 120,000 people have recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Iran is battling the worst outbreak in the region. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the latest deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,378 amid 32,332 confirmed cases.
He said nearly all of the approximately 2,900 newly confirmed cases are in critical condition. More than 11,000 people have been released from hospitals, according to the ministry.
Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere in the region.
Iran has been under severe U.S. sanctions since President Donald Trump withdrew his country from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers. The U.S. has offered humanitarian aid to Iran but authorities have refused.
Earlier this week, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, refused American aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.
Hundreds of Iranians have meanwhile been sickened or died from drinking methanol in the mistaken belief that it offers protection from the virus. Word of fake remedies has spread across social media in Iran, where many are deeply suspicious of the government after it initially downplayed the crisis.
Israel, meanwhile, has seen a surge in infections in recent days. It now has 3,035 confirmed cases and 10 fatalities. The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, reported seven more cases Friday, for a total of 84.
Authorities in the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Hamas militant group seized power there in 2007, have reported nine cases.
Gaza's health care infrastructure has been severely eroded by years of conflict and isolation. A major outbreak in the territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, could be extremely difficult to contain.
Krauss reported from Jerusalem.