Iran’s deputy health minister tests positive for coronavirus after appearing ill in presser

Iran’s deputy health minister is now under quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus following a press conference in which he appeared unwell.

Iran was accused of once again putting politics ahead of the welfare of its own people, as Iraj Harirchi, sweating and seeming ill, insisted at a news conference that the virus outbreak was not as serious as reports were indicating.

The latest numbers being reported by officials acknowledged 95 cases of coronavirus, with 15 people confirmed dead. But one lawmaker in the holy city of Qom contended that 50 people had died there, even as the local government refused to seal off the location at the center of the crisis. Those making pilgrimages to Qom may be unwittingly carrying and spreading the virus, critics warned, even as Iran faces shortages of some medical supplies.

Harirchi, who was seen wiping sweat from his brow at the news briefing on Monday, had been experiencing flu-like symptoms and weakness ahead of time, a spokesman for the Health Ministry said in an interview with the state-run news outlet IRNA.

The deputy health minister posted a video from his home on Tuesday,  explaining his diagnosis and how his fever had begun to abate. He also vowed the virus would be defeated while advising Iranians to be careful of their own health.

Mahmoud Sadeghi,  a member of Iran’s Parliament and a vocal critic of the Islamic Republic’s hardliners, also revealed that he had been diagnosed with the virus.

“I don’t have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world,” the 57-year-old had written in a tweet.

The New York Times reported:

A member of Parliament representing Qom claimed on Monday that at least 50 people had already died there, including 34 in quarantine, and that the first case had been reported more than two weeks before officials acknowledged any infections.

“Every day 10 people are dying in Qom,” the lawmaker, Ahmad Amiri Farahani, asserted in a speech to Parliament, demanding a quarantine on his city.


Ahead of Monday’s news briefing and his subsequent diagnosis, Harirchi had declared: “I will resign if the numbers are even half or a quarter of this.”

With Iran’s officials actively working to minimize the seriousness of the outbreak, warnings were being raised about the effect of the virus on those being held in the nation’s oppressive prisons.

The top official in charge of managing the coronavirus outbreak in Qom, Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, had reportedly claimed on Iran’s state TV that the health ministry had ordered city officials “not to publish any statistics” on the Qom outbreak, noting that things there were “very dire and disease has spread across the city.”

Iran’s leaders appeared to be meeting to discuss the outbreak on Tuesday.

President Rouhani reportedly played down the crisis and called out the outbreak reports as one of the “enemy’s plots.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted Iran and China for their mishandling of the outbreak, and for censoring accurate reports while trying to cover up the facts.

“All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” he said.


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