News Digest: Week of April 20

April 20

Health: Iran recorded 83,505 cases and 5,209 deaths from the COVID-19 virus. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that 353,012 Iranians had been tested for the virus.

Health/Economy: Shopping malls and bazaars reopened in Tehran despite warnings from health officials . The number of daily cases had decreased for the fifth day in a row. The Ministry of Health said that inspectors would be dispatched to ensure businesses were complying with government guidelines. “Everything depends on the degree to which people are respecting the health protocols. People should not think that the situation has become normal again,” said Mohammad Asayi, an adviser to the health minister.


Diplomacy: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus. The published agenda included the situation in war-torn Idlib province, the last area of major fighting between the Assad regime and rebels after nine years of war, and the status of the Astana talks on Syria led jointly by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The high-level meeting was Zarif’s first trip abroad in nearly two months and his first to Syria since April 2019.


April 21

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 84,802 cases and 5,297 deaths from the COVID-19 virus. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that 365,723 coronavirus tests had been conducted in the country. He added that 60,965 patients had recovered from the virus.

Justice/Human Rights: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who had been held in Evin Prison on espionage charges, was granted an additional month of furlough. She had previously been granted temporary release until April 4. Some 100,000  prisoners were released due to the risk of COVID-19 infection.


April 22

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 85,996 cases and 5,391 deaths from COVID-19. Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that 365,723 coronavirus tests had been performed.

Health/Society: Iran reopened public parks and recreational areas. The daily death toll had fallen below 100 for eight consecutive days.

Military: President Donald Trump threatened to take military action against Iran after recent tensions between U.S. and Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” he said.

Military:  The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that it had launched Iran’s first military satellite into orbit. The "Noor" satellite was launched from Iran's central Dasht-e Kavir desert using a “three-stage Qased satellite launcher” and “a combination of solid and liquid fuels,” according to state media. It was the first time Iran had used the advanced Qased launch system. “Today, the world’s powerful armies do not have a comprehensive defense plan without being in space, and achieving this superior technology that takes us into space and expands the realm of our abilities is a strategic achievement,” said IRGC Commander Hossein Salami.


April 23

Health: Iran recorded 87,026 cases and 5,481 deaths from coronavirus. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that the number of COVID-19 deaths had decreased to a third of the tally 18 days ago. “Since then we have been able to reduce the number of patients on a daily basis by 53%,” he added.

Military: The IRGC's commander, General Hossein Salami, warned that his forces could target U.S. vessels. “We have ordered our naval units at sea that if any warships or military units from the naval force of America’s terrorist army wants to jeopardize our commercial vessels or our combat vessels, they must target those warships or naval units,” he said.


April 24

Health: The Ministry of Health reported 88,194 cases and 3,121 deaths from COVID-19. Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that nearly 400,000 coronavirus diagnostic tests had been conducted.