Amid claims that Iran is being deceitful about the extent the coronavirus epidemic is present in their country, a government official in charge of dealing with the outbreak announced that he has been infected.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s, deputy health minister and department spokesman, made a video announcement on Fars News, the semi-official news agency of the Government of Iran, that he has tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus but that “we will definitely defeat the corona.” Harirchi is now under quarantine.
مشاور وزیر بهداشت: تست ابتلای معاون کل وزارت بهداشت به کرونا مثبت شد. pic.twitter.com/fHmwQy11yf
— خبرگزاری فارس (@FarsNews_Agency) February 25, 2020
“The coronavirus test for Mr. Harirchi, the deputy health minister who was on the front lines combating the coronavirus, was positive,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, a media adviser to the health minister, says in a tweet.
Ironically, Harirchi appeared on television on Monday to announce that the Iranian government was getting the coronavirus outbreak under control. During the announcement, he was visibly sweating and did not appear well.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, went on TV yesterday (left) to insist the Iranian government was getting the #coronavirus outbreak under control.
Today it was announced Harirchi himself has the virus. pic.twitter.com/dO0RgLyydk
— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) February 25, 2020
In the broadcast, Hirirchi stated that the Iranian government is absolutely against using quarantines to contain the coronavirus since it was an antiquated policy more suited for use against diseases like cholera and the Plague.
Harirchi is now under quarantine.
Iran is the hardest-hit country by the coronavirus outside of China, with the government announcing that 12 people had died from the virus and an additional 61 infections had been diagnosed.
But these data have been questioned. The Guardian and AFP cited the semi-official ILNA news agency that reported the claims of Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a government official from the city of Qom, as saying that at least 50 people have died in that city alone. Farahani claimed that 250 people are quarantined in the city.
Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia have either partially or entirely closed their borders to Iran and at least one crossing point with Kuwait was closed.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that on Sunday, Iran closed schools and universities in 14 provinces and dedicated 230 hospitals across the country to fight the coronavirus. Cultural and sporting events in 14 provinces have also been banned for the next week.
“In every city, one hospital will be dedicated to treating coronavirus cases,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said Sunday, noting that bigger cities would dedicate more hospitals to fighting the outbreak.
In Tehran, the capital city, authorities have ordered snack shops and water fountains in subway stations to close, and buses and subway trains to be disinfected daily, AFP reported.
Mohsen Hashemi, head of Tehran’s municipal council, also told AFP that the entire city with about 9 million residents would be put under quarantine if more infections are diagnosed.