Coronavirus: Rouhani urges Iranians not to panic over outbreak


A woman wearing a protective mask shops at a pharmacy in Tehran, Iran (24 February 2020)Image copyright

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Iran’s president has urged people to comply with the health ministry’s directives

Iran’s president has urged people not to panic as it struggles to contain an outbreak of the new coronavirus disease.

Hassan Rouhani expressed confidence that the country would overcome the crisis, which has left at least 16 dead.

Iran has reported 95 confirmed Covid-19 cases since last week, but the actual number is thought to be far higher.

The World Health Organization has said the sudden rise is “deeply concerning”.

A technical team from the UN agency was due to fly to Iran on Tuesday, but its departure has reportedly delayed.

The WHO has said it is also sending medical supplies and additional testing kits to Iran that should arrive in the next day or two.

President Rouhani has urged people to comply with the health ministry’s directives.

There have been more than 80,000 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and 2,700 related deaths since the disease emerged late last year. The vast majority have been in China.

More on the coronavirus outbreak

On Monday, Iranian Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied that the authorities were lying about the scale of the outbreak.

A member of parliament for Qom, the city at the centre of Iran’s Covid-19 outbreak, claimed that there had been 50 deaths there alone.

That was rejected by Mr Harirchi, who vowed to resign if it could be proven that even half that number had died.

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Media captionThe BBC’s online health editor talks us through what we know about the virus

But the MP, Ahmad Amirabadi-Farahani, refused to retract his claim, saying he had sent a list of 40 people who had died as a result of Covid-19 to the minister.

The authorities have so far refused to quarantine Qom, which is a major destination for Shia Muslim pilgrims and a centre of Shia learning.

Iran is also believed to have been the source of the first cases reported by neighbouring Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman, which have now imposed restrictions on travel to and from the Islamic Republic.

The United Arab Emirates, a major international transit hub, suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran for a week as a precaution on Tuesday. It has reported 13 cases, including an Iranian couple.

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