Iranian police have arrested five people after a prank video went viral shows eggplants falling from the sky in front of a Tehran landmark, state news agency IRNA said on Monday.
"A video showing eggplants raining down in the capital was published yesterday on social media, and the police immediately identified and arrested those behind it," IRNA quoted a Tehran police official as saying.
"They claimed they were conducting research in special effects when one of these clips was accidentally posted on social media," Ali Zolghadr said.
The five had "emphasised that they belong to no specific group or movement", he added.
IRNA did not specify what offence the arrested men were accused of perpetrating.
One of the viral clips shows a man trying to pose for a photo with Tehran's iconic Milad Tower in the background when suddenly a hail of eggplants rains down.
IRNA said that according to online speculation, the video was made by someone "named Amin Taghipour, an Iranian living in Canada proficient in special effects who works in Hollywood".
"He had visited Iran for his father's funeral but his flight back was cancelled over the coronavirus outbreak and now he is trying to have fun," the agency added.
Iran has been scrambling to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus in the country which so far has infected nearly 14,000 people and killed more than 853, according to official figures.
On Monday, authorities reported the increase in cases and deaths, noting the novel coronavirus had killed 129 more people, a new record high for a single day in one of the world's worst-hit countries.
"Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempt to travel to any province," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference.
The latest deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since 19 February, when the government announced Iran's first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease.
Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.
Today Islamic Republic arrested 5 people for making videos of eggplants rain. Police announced that soon these people will make a video to confess that they are not affiliated with any group.— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 16, 2020
Instead of handling #CronaVirus officials are busy to make people feel more miserable pic.twitter.com/qiUhcZafYM
Tehran province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.
The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Iran coming next with 96.
Khorasan Razavi province, home to the holy Shia city of Mashhad, was not among the reported provinces with fresh cases. It had recorded 143 the day before.
"If we judge cautiously, it seems that the overall efforts by the people and interventions by the health system... are slowly showing their effects in Qom and Gilan," Jahanpour said.
The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took the total to 1,023.
And confirmed infections in Gilan reached 858, with 18 new ones. The northern region is a popular tourist spot and among the worst-hit of Iran's 31 provinces.
On Monday, authorities also confirmed the death of a member of the clerical body that appoints the supreme leader, state media said.
Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani, who was 78, died two days after testing positive for the COVID-19 disease and being hospitalised, state news agency IRNA reported.
The official represented Tehran in the Assembly of Experts, an 88-strong body of clerics that appoints and monitors Iran's supreme leader.
At least 12 Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have now died of the illness, and 13 more have been infected and are either in quarantine or being treated.
The virus also killed a prominent economist and political activist on Monday, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.
Read more: How Gulf countries succeeded where Iran failed on containing coronavirus
Fariborz Rais-Dana, 71, succumbed to the illness after being hospitalised for six days, ISNA reported.
A prolific writer with a PhD from the London School of Economics, he had spent time in prison after being convicted of spreading propaganda against the system.
Some of Iran's neighbours have closed their borders with the country in the wake of the outbreak and many international flights to and from the Islamic Republic have been cancelled.
The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 6,526 people worldwide, while over 170,855 infections have been confirmed.
The majority of those that become infected experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough. ]
However, concerns have been raised for the elderly and those with existing health issues, who have reportedly suffered with more severe complications, including pneumonia and even death.
As of yet, there are no known treatments for the virus, though more than 77,781 have already recovered from the infection.
The World Health Organisation has confirmed those who experience a milder version of the virus recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
As the pandemic continues to spread across the world, dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine while governments continue to impose strict restrictions or "lockdowns" to help stem the spread of the virus.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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