Iran's deputy health minister contracts coronavirus

Tehran, February 26, 2020

Iran's deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi has said he had been infected with COVID-19, a day after he appeared symptomatic in a press conference.

The virus has killed 15 people in Iran, making it the worst-hit region outside of China.

"I've had a fever since Monday. The first test I took late last night came back positive and I have been in isolation since then. Just now they told me the final test was also positive," he said.

Harirchi said he was receiving treatment and that he was waiting for his fever to drop.

"I want to assure you that with the help of the Ministry of Health, and the support from you, the government and the pillars of the system, we will successfully fight this virus in the coming weeks."

Reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeghi, who was banned from running in the coming elections, has also contracted the disease, he said on Twitter.

There was recent controversy in Iran when Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker representing the city of the holy city Qom, claimed 50 people had died from coronavirus in Iran, a much higher number than the official line, Efe news reported.

Harirchi gave a press conference alongside government spokesman Ali Rabiei denying those claims on Monday.

The deputy minister appeared to be wiping sweat from his brow and demonstrated some of the symptoms associated with the disease.

The World Health Organization is sending a team of experts to help Iranian authorities address the COVID-19 outbreak.

Iran's health spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur said the total number of active cases in Iran stood at 95.

He said 35 new cases had been detected since the previous day, 19 of those in Qom and nine in Tehran.

Several neighbouring countries reported their first cases on Monday related to people who had recently travelled home from Iran, where many had visited Qom, a pilgrimage site.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates halted flights to Iran.

The usual hustle and bustle of Tehran has been tempered by the outbreak. Public transports, restaurants and cafes are all but empty.

There was a different atmosphere in the supermarkets, where crowds of people rushed to buy up non-perishable products, like tins of pasta and rice.

"If it keeps up, the products are going to run out and the suppliers can't keep up with the quantity," Ahad, an employee in a grocery store in north Tehran, said.

Some citizens are preparing to lock themselves away in self-isolation. Authorities have already suggested that those who can should work from home.

Schools and universities have postponed classes.

Hassan, a computer engineer, said all of his classes had been cancelled for the week.

"I would rather stay at home, and if I could I would leave Iran," he said.

Bordering nations Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Armenia have all closed their borders to Iran.

Most flights into Tehran have also been cancelled in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.


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