The Iranian health minister infected with coronavirus has vowed that the regime will bring the spiralling outbreak under control.
Iraj Harirchi said Iran would be ‘victorious in our combat against this virus’ in a video message he recorded after he was taken into quarantine yesterday.
Harirchi’s diagnosis was an embarrassment for the regime after he had insisted a day earlier – while sweating heavily at a press conference – that the outbreak was not as bad as feared.
Iran today announced four more deaths from the virus, with 44 new cases diagnosed in an outbreak which is spreading the virus across the Middle East.
The latest deaths bring the official tally to 19 fatalities out of 139 cases, although the very high death rate has fuelled suspicion that the regime’s figures are too low.
Of the 44 new cases, 15 were in the holy city of Qom where the outbreak first surfaced, with four in the capital Tehran.
Despite the growing crisis, Iran has refused to quarantine Qom, with the health ministry today merely urging Iranians not to travel there.
Several of Iran’s neighbours including Iraq, Bahrain and the UAE have shut down transport links after the virus spread across porous borders and infected people across the Middle East.
The Iranian deputy health minister who was diagnosed with coronavirus yesterday has vowed in a video (pictured) that the regime will be ‘victorious in our combat against this virus’
Iraj Harirchi was diagnosed with coronavirus just a day after he appeared at a press conference sweating profusely while insisting the country had its outbreak under control
A map showing how the coronavirus outbreak has spread from Iran across the Middle East to countries including Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said today that Tehran had no plans to quarantine cities to contain the outbreak.
Rouhani admitted that it may take ‘one, two or three weeks’ to get control of the virus in Iran, which has been linked to almost all of the cases across the Middle East.
However, Rouhani also attempted to turn Iranian anger against the United States, saying that the virus ‘must not be turned into a weapon for our enemies to halt work and production in our country’.
‘The Americans and our enemies during this time, around two years of which have passed, have wanted, with their sanctions and propaganda, to shut down production and economic activities in this country and for the people to suffer,’ he said.
Iran’s economy has been battered by U.S. sanctions since Donald Trump quit the nuclear deal in 2015, contributing to shortages of masks and medical testing kits.
The shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom, which has remained open and is disinfected daily, attracts Shi’ites from across Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Bahrain and other countries.
Several of Iran’s neighbours have closed their borders and banned flights from Iran due to fears over the virus, which could further hurt Iran’s already fragile economy.
Bahrain now has 26 cases, while Kuwait has 18, the UAE has 13, Iraq five, Oman two and Afghanistan one.
Flights between Iran and the UAE have been suspended while Bahrain has also blocked flights from Dubai.
About 100 Pakistanis, mostly Shi’ite pilgrims, are quarantined at a government building in Pakistan after returning from Iran, where they had visited holy sites.
However, Iran’s national broadcaster showed the streets of Qom teeming with crowds yesterday in an effort to downplay the virus while a woman was interviewed saying she had recovered from the virus.
Also linked to the virus outbreak is the city of Mashhad, where the Imam Reza shrine draws around 20million people per year.
Kuwait has reported that five travelers returning from Mashhad tested positive for the virus, but Iran has yet to confirm a single case in the city.
Tehran health workers clean a metro train this morning in an effort to stop the coronavirus outbreak which has spread from Iran across the Middle East
A Tehran Municipality worker cleans a bus today with the Iranian regime on the back foot over the growing coronavirus crisis
People walk in front of the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom, the Shi’ite holy city at the centre of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak
Women wearing protective masks get off a bus in Tehran yesterday, amid claims that the Iranian regime is covering up the true scale of the crisis
Iranian cleric suggests putting violet leaf oil up bottom to fend off coronavirus
An Iranian cleric and advocate of ‘Islamic medicine’ has suggested that his followers put an essential oil up their bottoms to shield themselves against coronavirus.
Ayatollah Tabrizian suggested the use of violet leaf oil in a Telegram message to his followers, according to Iranian media.
Combing one’s hair and eating a healthy supply of onions, apples and brown sugar could also be effective, he claimed.
Tabrizian’s followers are also advised to inhale snuff and burn wild rue to keep the virus at bay, it is claimed.
Persian-language media based in the West has previously described Tabrizian as a champion of Islamic medicine.
The son of a prominent religious leader who was once tipped as Iran’s next supreme leader last year blamed the alternative medicine movement for his father’s death, according to US-based Radio Farda.
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi’s son Ala said Islamic doctors had ‘convinced my father to ignore what modern physicians said about his illness and how to treat it’.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour today called on Iranians to refrain from travel as he announced the new tallies on state television.
Iran has closed schools, universities, cultural centres, sporting events and deployed teams of sanitary workers to disinfect buses, trains and public spaces.
But despite the rapid spread of coronavirus, the authorities have so far dismissed quarantine as an option to control the outbreak.