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Iranians risk coronavirus infection by licking holy shrine in alarming footage
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Shocking footage has shown worshippers risking coronavirus infection by licking the doors of a holy site in Iran – despite the disease killing more than 50 people in the country. The videos show people licking the doors and burial mound inside the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom. They are seen stating they “don’t care what happens” and one child is even praised for the actions. Touching and kissing surfaces in shrines is a common practice for pilgrims and worshippers believe the holy sites of Qom are a “place for healing”. But, given coronavirus can be easily transmitted through contact with infected surfaces, there has been outrage online that such sites have been allowed to stay open.

Journalist Masih Alinejed shared the videos and said the Iranian regime was “endangering the lives of Iranians and the world”. The coronavirus death toll of 54 people in Iran is the highest of any country outside China, with 978 confirmed cases. Qom has not been locked down by the government but there are broad restrictions on who is allowed in and out of the city. Retired teacher Ziba Rezaie, 62, from Qom, said: “The smell of disinfectants has become my nightmare.

“The city smells like a cemetery, a morgue.” There are also fears the government has been hiding the true severity of the outbreak. Sources in the country’s health system told BBC Persian last week that more than 200 people have died from the disease – almost four times the figure quotes by authorities. And Daily Star Online has since revealed this figure could be even greater. Most of the victims come from the country's capital, Tehran, and Qom.

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