Coronavirus is the new decade's biggest hit yet. If the world has gotten closer, with a "global village" title for its intricate web of connections - be it physical or virtual - it seems it has gone back to creating and protecting borders now.
On Monday, a lawmaker from Qom - a Shia holy city in Iran and the other center of contagion - said the death toll fed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached 50, The Guardian reported. However, Iran's deputy health minister rejected the report, saying 12 deaths and 66 cases of infected people have been recorded so far.
Amid controversies regarding numbers and the Iranian government's promise to remain transparent with digits, the country's neighbors are choosing safety over relations. Nine nations have closed borders with the Western Asian land, with others halting air transport.
Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Armenia have closed their borders with the Islamic Republic, with other countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Georgia imposing travel and immigration restrictions. "Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are reportedly intensifying border checks to combat the spread of the coronavirus," writes Al Arabiya.
Jordan is denying the entry of non-Jordanians coming from Iran and South Korea.
Lebanon, on the other hand, has chosen to "reduce flights" back and forth to Iran, even though the country recorded its first case of COVID-19 on Friday; the infected individual came from Iran.
The 45-year-old Lebanese woman, Souad Sakr, was returning from Qom when she was diagnosed and then quarantined at Rafik Hariri University Hospital. The plane she boarded held 150 passengers, all returning home from the Iranian city. Lebanese authorities asked the passengers to self-quarantine for 14 days from the date they left Iran.
Many Lebanese and Muslims, in general, visit the city of Qom as it serves as a pilgrimage spot for believers.
Iran, specifically its city Qom, has become the Wuhan of the Middle East.
"The number of deaths compared with the number of confirmed infections from the virus is higher in Iran than in any other country, including China and South Korea, where the outbreak is far more widespread," The Guardian reported.
"It is unlikely that Iran will have the resources and facilities to adequately identify cases and adequately manage them if case numbers are large," said Paul Hunter, a medicine professor at the University of East Anglia and an authority on the new coronavirus infection, according to the British newspaper.
Iran has closed schools for the second day in a row as a preventive measure.
So far, China has reported 97 deaths on Sunday, taking its total death toll to 2,593 and adding 409 new infections, for a total of 77,345 cases. Almost 80,000 people have been infected worldwide, with the vast majority being reported in China.