CAIRO, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The total number of COVID-19 cases in Iran on Sunday rose to 13,938, of whom 724 have died, as the epidemic continued to rage in the hardest-hit country in the Middle East.
The number of COVID-19 cases on Sunday was up by 1,209 from a day ago, while the death toll increased by 113. Meanwhile, 451 more people recovered from the novel coronavirus in Iran, bringing the total number of the recovered to 4,790.
To stem the spread of the viral respiratory disease, Iranian health officials urged the halt of travels ahead of Iran's new year holiday that begins on March 20.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday ruled out the likelihood of locking down the capital city of Tehran or other cities despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Iran's army launched screening exercises in the provinces of Qom and Gilan to counter the COVID-19 outbreak, and such exercises will finally be staged nationwide, said Kiomars Heidari, ground force commander of the Iranian army.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Health Ministry on Sunday reported 14 new cases of coronavirus infection, as the total number of confirmed cases climbed to 124. The Iraqi government imposed a week-long curfew in Baghdad to contain the outbreak of the virus.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the first countries to report COVID-19 cases in the region, said the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 98, after 12 new cases were recorded on Sunday, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement.
In Rabat, Morocco on Sunday confirmed 11 more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of the infected in the North African country to 28.
Morocco decided to stop all international flights, days after closing its land borders with Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's two North African enclaves, and stopping all passengers' sea links with Spain, Italy and France. The country will set up a fund worth 1.07 billion U.S. dollars to deal with the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Kuwait reported eight new COVID-19 cases, as the total number of confirmed cases rose to 112. Two COVID-19 patients recovered from the disease.
Israel reported seven new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 200, two of whom are in serious condition.
All shopping centers, restaurants, cafes, theaters and cinemas in Israel were closed indefinitely as part of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Israel also decided to ban the use of cash in public transport, while canceling bus lines to places of entertainment and shopping centers.
In Amman, Jordan confirmed that 10 people, including one Iraqi national, two Jordanians and four French tourists, were infected with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the kingdom to 11.
In Beirut, the Lebanese Health Ministry announced six new coronavirus cases, as the total number of confirmed cases soared to 99 in lebanon.
Lebanon's Higher Defense Council announced a state of health emergency, which means tightening control of national transportation, increasing cooperation between private and public hospitals, and closure of all businesses except for pharmacies and food services.
In Tunis, the Tunisian Health Ministry said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose to 20, after two new cases were recorded on Sunday.
The total number of people infected with COVID-19 increased to 22 in Oman on Sunday, after two new cases were confirmed, the Ministry of Health announced.
In Ankara, a Turkish national who recently returned from a pilgrimage trip to Saudi Arabia was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, becoming the sixth case in the country, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on his Twitter account.
In Algiers, Algerian Health Ministry on Sunday confirmed the death of a fourth patient infected with COVID-19, who was a 84 year-old woman in Blida province.
Algeria announced the suspension of all air and sea links with France as of March 17 in a move to contain the spread of COVID-19. Algeria has already suspended flights with several other countries, including Italy, Morocco, Spain and Saudi Arabia.
In Ramallah, a senior Palestinian official praised China, which has largely won a national campaign to control the COVID-19 spread, as a model for containing the epidemic.
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), applauded the Chinese leadership for setting an example in the rapid blockade of the epidemic and building health institutions in a short time.
In a statement sent to Xinhua, Erekat also thanked the Chinese leadership for its readiness to provide medical aid to help the Palestinian people to defeat the disease.