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2 die in Iran after testing positive for COVID-19

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Tehran, Iranian health authorities have confirmed that two men have died after testing positive for the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19), making it the first fatalities in the country and the second outside Asia.

An informed source said on Wednesday that the two old men died in a hospital in Qom city after being tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the day, reports Press TV.

The source said one of the two had been suffering from chemical weapons injuries sustained during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. He described the other victim as a 65-old man, without elaborating.

The news of the deaths came hours after authorities confirmed first two cases for coronavirus in Iran. In response, Deputy Health Minister Qassem Janbabaei visited Qom on Wednesday to supervise preparations to curb the spread of the disease.

Janbabaei said the two men were from two separate neighbourhoods of Qom, a city of close to one million people, adding that they had never been out of the province let alone to any foreign country.

“How they contracted coronavirus is not clear and the issue is being probed,” he told the state-run IRNA news agency.

The development came nearly a month after authorities evacuated 57 Iranian students from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, reports Press TV.

The students were released from a 14-day quarantine in Tehran on Tuesday.Hong Kong (two), the Philippines (one), Japan (one) and France (one) have each reported deaths.

The overall death toll in China increased to 2,118 on Thursday, with a total of 74,576 confirmed cases.

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India-Australia ready to share COVID-19 research efforts

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New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) As the number of COVID-19 patients has swelled past a million in just over three months across the globe, India and Australia on Monday agreed to share “collaborative research efforts” in the context of the health crisis.

Both the countries agreed on the “importance of bilateral experience sharing” amid the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 crisis in a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Monday morning.

The two leaders discussed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the domestic response strategies being adopted by their respective governments. “They agreed on the importance of bilateral experience-sharing in the context of this health crisis, including through collaborative research efforts,” a Prime Minister’s Office statement said.

Modi conveyed that the government of India stands ready to provide necessary facilitation and support to any Australian citizens stranded in India due to travel restrictions. Morrison similarly assured that the Indian community in Australia, including Indian students, would continue to be valued as a vibrant part of Australian society, the statement said.

“Both leaders agreed to remain attentive to the wider significance of the India-Australia partnership, including in the Indo-Pacific region, even as they focus on solving the present health crisis.”

The talks took place between the two leaders when 109 deaths were reported in India with over 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases A total of 39 deaths and over 5,000 confirmed cases have been reported in Australia.

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Pope marks Holy Week alone for 1st time in history

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Vatican City, April 6 Pope Francis held the Palm Sunday mass alone in the St Peter’s Basilica here for the first time in history due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the rites to mark the beginning of Holy Week, an important religious festival in the Catholic calendar, were not held in the Vatican Square as usual and there was no congregation present at the ceremony, reports Efe news.

Instead millions of people followed the liturgy on the internet, radio and television amid widespread isolation measures imposed around the world due to the deadly outbreak.

The Pope said during his homily: “The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others. For life is measured by love.”

Only a small group of people were present with the pontiff for the service, respecting social distancing measures by maintaining a safe distance at all times.

The Vatican has been forced to adopt preventive measures since the emergence of the outbreak which has seen more than 1.2 million global infections and 66,500 deaths.

Italy has been one of the worst affected countries in the world with 128,948 confirmed cases and the highest number of deaths in the world at 15,887.

St Peter’s Square and Basilica in the Vatican City were closed to the public in March.

The Pope told people feeling lonely to cling to their faith in these difficult times.

“When we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone,” he said.

“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: �Courage, open your heart to my love. You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you’.”

The Pope will officiate at a mass on Maundy Thursday but without the traditional foot washing that he used to carry out at migrant shelters or in prisons.

Good Friday mass will be held inside the Basilica and there will be no faithful at the Easter Vigil on Saturday or at mass on Easter Sunday.

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CoronaVirus: US COVID-19 deaths surpass 9,000

Globally, the death toll is more than 59,100, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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New York, April 6 : The total number of deaths of COVID-19 in the United States topped 9,000 as of 1.30 p.m. Sunday local time (1730 GMT), according to the data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

A total of 9,132 people have died of the pandemic among 321,762 confirmed cases in the country, the CSSE said, reported Xinhua news agency.

The state of New York suffered most deaths in the country, which stood at 4,159. Among other hard-hit states, New Jersey reported 846 fatalities, Michigan recorded 540 deaths, and California reported 324 deaths, according to the CSSE data.

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