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The official coronavirus death toll in Iran, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, has risen to at least 54 — the highest number of fatalities outside of China, where the outbreak began. Experts say the real number of people who died from the disease may be as high as 200. This comes after Iran’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, posted a video on social media last week acknowledging he contracted coronavirus. Just one day before, he seemed ill at a press conference, where he downplayed the spread of coronavirus in the city of Qom and said mass quarantines were unnecessary. Iranian authorities announced new efforts to combat the coronavirus on Sunday, calling on people not to use public transportation, and closing schools, universities and cultural centers. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international health emergency. We speak with Dr. Kamiar Alaei, Iranian global health policy expert and co-founder and co-president of the Institute for International Health and Education. He is a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.


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