Iran health official and MP are infected by coronavirus

An image grab from footage obtained from the state-run Iran Press news agency on February 24, 2020, shows Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei (R) and deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi speaking during a press conference in Tehran. (AFP/HO/Iran Press)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Iran health official and MP are infected by coronavirus

  • There is currently an outbreak of the disease in the Islamic republic
  • Iran confirmed three more deaths and 34 new infections on Tuesday

DUBAI: Iran’s deputy health minister and a member of parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus amid growing regional fears that the country cannot cope with the spread of the infection.

The minister, Iraj Harirchi, had coughed and sweated through a news conference on Monday, held to deny claims that the virus death toll in the city of Qom had reached 50.

On Tuesday he admitted: “I too have been infected with coronavirus. I wanted to tell you that ... we will definitely be victorious against this virus in the next few weeks.”

MP Mahmoud Sadeghi said he had also tested positive for the virus. “I do not have much hope of staying alive,” he said, apparently unaware that the fatality rate among those infected is about 2 percent.

The US is concerned that Iran may have “suppressed vital details” about the outbreak. 

“All nations including Iran should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

The unease is shared by Iran’s Gulf neighbors, who announced new measures on Tuesday to cut links with Iran to prevent the virus from spreading.

The UAE suspended passenger and cargo flights to Iran, and Bahrain closed schools and nurseries for two weeks and banned its citizens from traveling to Iran “until further notice.”

Over the past two days, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have reported 29 cases of the coronavirus among people returning from pilgrimages to Iran. 

Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah.

Oman has also suspended Iranian flights after identifying two more virus cases.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed 2,711, mostly in China, since it was identified in Hubei province in December.

 


Prisoners riot in Iran, region’s worst COVID-19 outbreak

Updated 16 min 14 sec ago

Prisoners riot in Iran, region’s worst COVID-19 outbreak

  • Iran had temporarily released around 100,000 prisoners as part of measures taken to contain the pandemic
  • Prisoners broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections housing violent criminals

TEHRAN: Prisoners in southern Iran broke cameras and caused other damage during a riot, state media reported Monday, the latest in a series of violent prison disturbances in the country, which is battling the most severe coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.
Iran had temporarily released around 100,000 prisoners as part of measures taken to contain the pandemic, leaving an estimated 50,000 people behind bars, including violent offenders and so-called “security cases,” often dual nationals and others with Western ties.
Families of detainees and Western nations say Iran is holding those prisoners for political reasons or to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations.
The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Gov. Enayatollah Rahimi of the southern Fars province as saying a riot broke out at Adel Abad Prison, the main lockup in the city of Shiraz. Rahimi said prisoners broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections housing violent criminals. No one was wounded and no one escaped.
IRNA reported Friday that 70 inmates had escaped Saqqez Prison in Iran’s western Kurdistan province. Prisoners beat guards during the chaos, a local prosecutor said. Several inmates later returned on their own to the prison.
Since the beginning of the year, riots have broken out in prisons in Aligudarz, Hamedan and Tabriz as well, with some prisoners escaping, IRNA reported.
Iran has reported more than 38,000 infections and 2,640 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
The virus causes mild symptoms, including fever and cough, in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by people showing no symptoms. It can also cause severe illness and death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying health problems.
The virus has infected more than 720,000 people worldwide, causing more than 34,000 deaths, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. More than 150,000 have recovered.