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Iran’s key oil-producing region and home to the country’s ports on the Persian Gulf is seeing an alarming increase in COVID-19 infections, medical officials said on Thursday. Iran’s total infections also began to rise again after the Islamic Republic relaxed lockdowns.
The Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran bordering Iraq and lying on the Persian Gulf is home to most of Iran’s oil and gas fields - the chief foreign income for the Islamic Republic which is being severely crippled by the U.S. sanctions on its oil exports. Khuzestan also hosts the country’s ports and the land routes to them, through which most of Iran’s exports and imports pass.
The COVID-19 pandemic is now spreading at an alarming rate in the province, Radio Farda reports, citing Ali Ehsanpoor, spokesman of Jondishapoor Medical University of Ahwaz in the province.
Between Wednesday and Thursday, a total of 178 new cases were identified in the province, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in Khuzestan - which has a population of 4.7 million people - close to 4,000, Ehsanpoor said.
As of Thursday, there were 483 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals in the province and the number of cases continues to increase, he said.
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Iran was one of the first heavily affected countries by the coronavirus pandemic and the country worst hit in the Middle East. Authorities have relaxed lockdowns, but new cases began to rise again this week.
Iran has eased lockdowns for businesses as its economy was already tanking even before the pandemic because of the U.S. sanctions on its oil industry and exports.
In contrast to previously defiant statements that Iran will withstand any sanctions of its ‘enemies’, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted in November that it was very difficult to run the country with severely crippled oil revenues.
Now the coronavirus, the crash in global oil demand, and the collapse in oil prices have further hit the Islamic Republic and its key income source, oil revenues.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.