Iranian deputy health minister contracts coronavirus Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, at the press conference in Tehran on Monday, a day before he tested positive for coronavirus © Iranian Presidency/AFP/Getty

TEHRAN/DUBAI. – Speaking from the quarantine, Iran’s vice health minister announces that he has tested positive for the new coronavirus(COVID-19), but expresses certitude that the country will overpower the epidemic over the upcoming weeks.

“I contracted coronavirus, too,” Iraj Harirchi said in a video that surfaced on Tuesday.

He stated that he had entered “isolation” and started treatment, but said his general health condition was favourable, and that he was currently just experiencing fever and fatigue.

Meanwhile, two more people infected with the COVID-19 have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, officials said on Tuesday, as Iranians worried that authorities could be underestimating the scale of outbreak.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged in late 2019. Among the infected was the deputy health minister, who tested positive for coronavirus, state media said.

“Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 (new cases) have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.

The virus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It may also worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal.

According to the World Health Organisation, the epidemic has killed more than 2,600 people and infected more than 77,000 others in China. But the situation has worsened elsewhere with nearly 2,700 other cases and more than 40 deaths globally.

In Iran, the virus showed up in the north-central city of Qom, where it has claimed its most victims. In all, the spread has taken 15 lives across the country and infected as many as 95 others.

Most recently, Majlis (Parliament) member Mahmoud Sadeghi announced in a tweet that he too had been infected with the virus.

However, the head of Iran’s Passive Defence Organisation, Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali announced on Tuesday that the outbreak “has relatively been contained across the country.”

He said the achievement was made thanks to the “national will and the coordination that has transpired on the highest managerial levels in the country.”

Containment of the virus, he added, means that “we will witness a fall in the number of those infected in the upcoming weeks, and a downward trend in the trajectory of affliction.”

The official, however, warned that adversarial media outlets were trying to spread misinformation concerning the extent of the problem in the country.

The outlets, he said, were doing so by trying to refute the statistics that would be released by the country’s health system and cite alleged contradiction between the figures that are announced by various officials.

The official added that agencies were also creating the impression of inefficiency on the part of the Islamic Republic’s healthcare apparatus by drawing falsified comparisons between the measures that are taken by the country and other states.

Finally, those media organisations were busy spreading fear and phobia among the people and the country’s medical teams by spreading wrong or exaggerated statistics, he added.

Jalali cautioned the public and social media users to stay vigilant in the face of the media campaign.

“We should all maintain our integrity and unity in this fight and confrontation and pay no heed to the enemies’ plot,” he said, urging against “politicisation” of the battle against the virus.

Iranian medical officials have likewise assured that Iran would, in the near future, rein in the outbreak, noting that the condition of most of the patients diagnosed with the virus had improved.

Ali Akbar Velayati, head of Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital, said at a press conference on Monday that the task of combating the spread was no harder than that of tackling an influenza epidemic in the country, which has been brought under control.

Mohammad Mehdi Gooya, the director of the Health Ministry’s Centre for Prevention of Infectious Diseases, also stressed that most of those infected with the coronavirus were showing signs of recovery.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite defence force, has expressed preparedness to help fight the outbreak, and Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami has ordered his Ministry’s subsidiary organisations to start mass-producing liquid disinfectants and protective masks in large quantities.

The country has, meanwhile, announced closure of schools and universities throughout the upcoming days, and health centres have been tasked with distributing protective items, such as the facemasks, among the public.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter, urging a borderless region-wide fight against the virus.

“Like other viruses – including terrorism – #COVID19 knows no borders and doesn’t distinguish between ethnicities or faiths,” he tweeted, referring to the virus with its codename. “To combat it, neither should we,” he added.

“In line with #HOPE, Iran calls for more regional cooperation, including long overdue Joint Centre for Disease Control & Prevention,” Zarif added, pointing by acronym to President Hassan Rouhani’s Hormuz Peace Initiative, which envisions close regional cooperation with the aim of enhancing collective security. – Press TV/Reuters

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