People wear protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as they ride an escalator at a metro station,…
FILE - People wear protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as they ride an escalator at a metro station, in Tehran, Iran, July 8, 2020.

Iran’s economy must stay open despite a rise in the number of coronavirus infections, President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday. He called for a ban on large gatherings, such as at weddings and wakes, to limit the spread of the disease.

Iran reported Saturday that in the previous 24 hours, there had been 2,397 new COVID-19 cases and 188 deaths related to the virus, for a total of more than 255,000 confirmed cases and a death toll of more than 12,600. The country, which has a population of more than 80 million, ranks ninth globally in the number of cases and deaths because of the coronavirus.

Worldwide, there were 12.6 million confirmed cases and more than 562,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

"We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties,” Rouhani said, according to a Reuters report. Shortly after he spoke, Tehran police closed all wedding and mourning venues until further notice, the wire service reported.

Damaging economy 'unacceptable'

He also said university entrance exams might have to be suspended in an effort to limit infections.

However, he rejected the idea of curbing economic activity, saying that shutting the economy negatively affects people’s lives as well.

"In the long term, paralyzing the economy would be unacceptable to the people," Rouhani said in comments published on his office's website on July 11.

Iran’s economy was struggling before the coronavirus pandemic, because of U.S. sanctions.

FILE - Traffic moves outside the main premises of Biocon, an Indian biotech company, in Bangalore, India, Dec. 17, 2010.

Drug approval in India

Also Saturday, Biocon, an Indian biopharmaceutical company, told Reuters it had received regulatory approval for its drug Itolizumab to be used in India on coronavirus-infected patients suffering from moderate to severe respiratory distress.

Itolizumab also is used to cure the skin disease psoriasis.

India, with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, has recorded 820,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and a death toll of 22,000.

In Australia, Victoria’s capital of Melbourne has begun a six-week lockdown because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

“Nobody is enjoying being locked at home. It is frustrating, it is challenging, but the strategy will be successful if we all play our part,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria state, said Saturday.

Victoria reported 216 new cases Saturday, down from the 288 Friday.

FILE - A worker in personal protective equipment disposes of rubbish outside a public housing tower, reopened the previous night after being locked down in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease, in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020.

“We will see more and more additional cases,” Andrews said. “This is going to be with us for months and months.”

Australia’s seven other states and territories reported 11 new cases Saturday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, warned that the pandemic was worsening in the U.S. because the country lacked a coherent strategy to contain the virus.

“As a country, when we compare ourselves to other countries, I don’t think you can say we are doing great. I mean, we’re just not,” Fauci said in a recent interview.

Consider shutdowns

Fauci suggested earlier this week that states struggling to combat the virus “should seriously look at shutting down,” despite state efforts to reopen in order to revive their economies.

On Friday, the United States reported more than 65,000 new infections, the latest in a string of record-breaking days.

The U.S. remains the hardest-hit country, with about one-quarter of all confirmed infections and fatalities worldwide. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 3.2 million people in the U.S. had contracted COVID-19 and more than 134,000 had died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

An attendant, front, directs park guests to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom during the reopening at Walt Disney World, July 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

On Saturday, Disney World in the southern U.S. state of Florida opened to tourists after nearly four months, with guidelines in place to help prevent spreading the coronavirus.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened Saturday; Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open next week.

Among the many guidelines put in place: wearing masks is mandatory; social distancing is required; guests will not be allowed to hop between parks; and the popular daily fireworks shows and parades have been suspended to help limit drawing large crowds.

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