World battles coronavirus outbreak

(BBC) – With new cases of the coronavirus being diagnosed around the world, it’s hard to predict where it will pop up next.

The disease has already become a nightmare for travellers and the tourism industry.

Mike from West Yorkshire, England, told the BBC that he has prepared for his trip to watch a test match in Sri Lanka next month by buying hand gels and a surgical mask.

“My flight goes through Dubai, which could be a bit of a hotspot as it’s such a large airport,” he said.

“I’m concerned, but my wife is paranoid. She’s telling me I won’t come back!”

Mike has paid several thousand pounds for the nine-day trip, but is reluctant to cancel.

“I’m feeling hopeful. The England team are still going, and in terms of the number of cases, I’m probably safer there than I am here.”

The reports that we are receiving from cities around Iran suggest that the numbers of cases is actually much higher than the Iranian authorities are giving.

Unlike in Italy, Iranian officials are refusing to impose quarantines in areas affected by the outbreak. They say quarantines are old-fashioned and that they do not believe in them.

The Shia shrines in the cities of Qom and Mashhad are still open, despite Qom being a hotbed of the virus.

There are grand ayatollahs in Qom who believe that its shrine, which attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world, and its important seminary, which hosts many foreign religious students, are the pride of the Shia world.

Shutting them down would be a huge step for the clerics and not one that they would be likely to take unless they come under international pressure.

We can see the clear conflict between religious fundamentalism and science.

Iran also lacks the medical equipment it needs to help contain the outbreak. It has run out of masks and does not have enough testing kits.

A number of medical workers have also been infected, so there is a worry that they will soon run out of doctors and nurses to attend to those with the disease.

The majority of Iranians are extremely worried.

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