Wed, 23 Sep 2020

Iran's parliament reconvened on April 7 for the first time since the new coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, as the country reported a drop in new infections for the seventh straight day.

More than two-thirds of the legislature's 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker and veteran politician Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

At least 31 members of parliament, which had been shut since February 25, have contracted the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus.

State television footage of the session showed some lawmakers huddling together despite official guidelines on physical distancing.

The session debated and eventually blocked an urgent bill to totally lock down the country for a month.

'This plan is against jobs and growing productivity. Who's going to pay for implementing it?' lawmaker Shadmehr Kazemzadeh said, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.

But Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, who drafted the bill, said Iran had been 'confused' about how to contain the virus.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur reported 133 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the official toll to 3,872.

Another 2,089 infections were recorded nationwide, bringing the total to 62,589.

Iran announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, when it said two people had died from the illness.

Iran is one of the world's worst-hit countries, and there are concerns that the actual figures are much higher.

Iranian authorities have been criticized for an initial slow response to the pandemic and failure to quarantine the city of Qom, where the coronavirus outbreak erupted in February.

Based on reporting by AFP and ISNA

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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