Turkey's confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday, overtaking neighboring Iran for the first time to register the highest total number of cases in the Middle East.
Koca said 121 more people have died, taking the death toll to 1,890. A total of 10,453 people have recovered so far, and the number of tests carried out over the past 24 hours came to 40,520, the minister said.
The Interior Ministry also said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for another 15 days starting at midnight on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Iran allowed some businesses in the capital city of Tehran to re-open on Saturday as the country's daily death toll from the new coronavirus fell to 73, its lowest since March 12. This brought the total death toll to 5,031, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said.
Saturday marked the fifth consecutive day with a death toll under 100 in Iran, one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East.
The total number of people diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, reached 80,868 as the country recorded 1,374 new cases in the past 24 hours, the spokesman said on state TV.
So-called low-risk businesses – including many shops, factories and workshops – resumed operations in Tehran, a week after re-opening in the rest of the country, state television said.
Television footage showed health inspectors visiting shops and reminding a baker that he was required to wear a mask despite working near a hot oven. Other inspectors were seen controlling stores where employees handed out gloves to customers.
Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a fatwa, or religious ruling, that believers may abstain from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan if it threatens their health.
"The fast is a religious necessity and a pillar of Islamic law and it is not permissible to abstain from fasting ... unless one has a rational belief that fasting may cause a sickness, worsen a disease or prolong it," Khamenei said in the ruling published on his official website.
In a speech earlier this month, Khamenei called on Iranians to create the sense of Ramadan in their homes, since public gatherings are likely to be banned because of the coronavirus outbreak when the fasting month starts around April 23.