Iranian Deputy Health Minister contracts coronavirus; outbreak worsens
Iran is struggling to contain a significant outbreak that has killed 15 people and infected more than 90 people in the country. Iran's Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday.
Iran's Deputy Health Minister and an MP have both tested positive for the coronavirus, as the country struggles to contain a significant outbreak that has killed 15 people and infected more than 90 people in the country. Iran is one of three hot-spots outside China causing concern that the virus could be becoming a pandemic.
Deputy Minister Iraj Harirchi, on Monday denied covering up the scale of the outbreak during a news conference. He appeared on television sweaty and ill to warn Iranians of the outbreak, only to test positive for the virus on Tuesday.
In a video broadcast on state television, Harirchi put on a brave face as he admitted he was infected. "I too have been infected with coronavirus," the Minister said in the video apparently shot by himself.
"I had a fever as of last night and my preliminary test was positive around midnight," he said.
An MP from the Iranian capital Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, said he had also tested positive for the virus, the BBC reported.
The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the sudden increase in cases in countries outside China is "deeply concerning".
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington was concerned that Iran may have concealed "vital details" about its outbreak and urged all nations to "tell the truth about the coronavirus".
The other countries currently in the spotlight are South Korea and Italy, where cases have surged in recent days.
More than 80,000 cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease have been reported worldwide since it emerged late last year. About 2,700 patients have died -- the vast majority in China.
But the situation in Iran has caused great concern about a potential mass outbreak in the Middle East.
Across the Middle East, flights from Iran have been halted and borders with the country have been closed as the region tries to keep the spread of the deadly virus at bay, CNN reported. Several countries have also issued travel bans for the country.
The heavy economic sanctions imposed against Iran by the US and other bodies have made tackling the disease harder, with the country struggling to access novel coronavirus test kits, a board member of Iran's Association of Medical Equipment Importers told the semi-official news agency ILNA on Sunday.
Dr Nathalie MacDermott, an expert in infectious diseases at King's College London, said that of the current hot-spots outside China, Iran is the most concerning because of the lack of an accurate picture of how widespread the outbreak really is.