US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily coronavirus disease (COVID-19) task force briefing at the White House in Washington, US, April 19, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

Trump would be willing to give coronavirus aid to Iran if asked

As the total number of infected cases in the Islamic Republic reaches 82,211 with 5,118 deaths

Reuters April 20, 2020
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Sunday he would be willing to provide aid to Iran to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic if Tehran requested it.

“If Iran needed aid on this, I would be willing,” Trump said at a White House briefing.

Meanwhile, Iran extended furloughs for prisoners for another month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, as the Islamic Republic endeavours to stem the spread of the new coronavirus in its crowded jails.

Iran’s reported temporary release of 100,000 prisoners since February - including prisoners of conscience and dual and foreign nationals - was welcomed by the United Nations on Friday as a good step, but one that must be expanded.

Rouhani said mosques and holy sites in Iran would remain closed until at least May 4, as the Middle East’s worst-hit country tries to contain the fast-spreading outbreak.

Iran allowed so-called low-risk businesses - including many shops, factories and workshops - to resume operations in Tehran on Saturday, a week after re-opening in the rest of the country.

“Mosques and religious centres will remain closed for the next two weeks ... Decisions on gatherings during the (Muslim holy month of) Ramadan will be taken next week,” Rouhani said.

Schools and universities remain closed, and a ban on cultural, religious and sports gatherings has been imposed.

Rouhani said high-risk businesses - including theatres, gyms, saunas, beauty salons, and shopping centres - would remain closed “until further notice”.

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has risen by 87 to 5,118, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV on Sunday.

The total number of infected cases in the Islamic Republic has reached 82,211, he said.