The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 154,000 with over 2.25 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.
Iran is allowing some businesses in Tehran and nearby towns to reopen on April 18 after weeks of lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Iran initially was slow to respond to the pandemic and held off on imposing widespread restrictions even after other countries in the region with far fewer cases forced most businesses to close.
Authorities in Iran have reported more than 80,000 confirmed infections with over 5,000 deaths. But many Iranian citizens and international experts think Iran’s government has intentionally underreported the extent of the pandemic in the country.
Gyms, restaurants, shopping malls, and Tehran’s grand bazaar remain closed.
Shrines and mosques, as well as schools and universities, are also closed and public gatherings are banned.
But government offices have reopened with a third of employees working from home.
Traffic was heavy in Tehran early on April 18, the first day of Iran’s work week. Authorities allowed businesses outside the capital to reopen a week ago.
Iran’s leaders say they must consider the economic consequences of quarantine measures. The country is struggling under tight sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump after he withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
On April 17, human rights experts from the United Nations called on Iran to release political prisoners who risk becoming infected inside the country’s crowded detention centers.
Tehran has temporarily released 100,000 prisoners. But Iran continues to detain many dual-nationals convicted on security charges.
The UN experts have highlighted the cases of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and rights defenders Narges Mohammadi and Arash Sadeghi, as well as Ahmadreza Djalali , an Iranian-Swedish national; Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-British-American national; and Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb, who are both Iranian-Austrian nationals.
They said all seven have requested temporary release but have been rejected or not received a response.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili denied that nationality was a factor in determining whether a prisoner would be released.
Russia said on April 18 that its death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 313 — an overnight increase of 40 deaths.
Russian authorities on April 18 also reported 4,785 new cases during the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of declared infections to 36,793.
Moscow accounted for more than half of the new infections and 21 of the 40 deaths, the Russian coronavirus crisis response center said.
Russia had reported far fewer infections than many Western European countries during the pandemic’s early stages. But the country’s official tally began rising sharply in April.
Like in many countries, health authorities in Russia are not carrying out mass testing.
Private testing results in Moscow among people without symptoms suggest the virus has penetrated more deeply into the population than official data shows.