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Government in Iran is stepping up measures to deal with the spread of coronavirus

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani alongside Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri on March 25, 2020 in Teheran (Iran). (- / IRANIAN PRESIDENCY)

Iranian authorities have decided to ban travel across the country, including rallies in parks, given the coronavirus epidemic that has left more than 2,000 people dead in the country. A total of 143 deaths were recorded on Wednesday March 25. Iran is one of the most affected countries in the world after China, Italy and Spain.

>> Follow the evolution of the Covid-19 epidemic in our live

Measures that arrive very late. Authorities have so far called on Iranians to make a “conscientious” decision on their displacement or family visit, during the holidays of Norouz, the Iranian New Year, which began last week and will end on 3 April. It is traditionally the occasion of a vast migration for the inhabitants of Tehran for example who have family in the provinces. You should know that until March 19, before the holidays started, bazaars and shopping centers were still open to allow people to do their shopping. The risks of contamination were very high. Despite these risks, the Islamic Republic refused to impose strict quarantine or containment measures on the population.

Five former health ministers wrote to President Rohani asking him not to mess with people's lives and to prevent unnecessary travel and travel. This is therefore what was decided on Wednesday March 25, five weeks after the start of the epidemic which officially started on February 19, during the legislative elections, but which could have started earlier if we believe the Deputy Minister of Health, who admitted that the disease had probably been in his country since January.

There are also doubts about the figures communicated by the Iranian authorities on the number of victims and those infected. According to the latest official report, the coronavirus epidemic has killed 2,077 people in Iran and more than 27,000 people have been infected. Iranian authorities may voluntarily underestimate the figures to hide the gravity of this health crisis.

But above all, they seem to have underestimated the start of the crisis in the religious city of Qom, located 160 km from Tehran. A city where the Fatima shrine is visited by tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims and where several hundred Chinese students live. However, it was there that the first death was recorded in mid-February: that of an Iranian merchant returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan. The sanctuary was not closed until March 16, just like the other holy places. Between the appearance of the first case and the closure of the sanctuaries, we could see surreal videos of Iranian pilgrims kissing the grids of the sanctuaries to show that they were not afraid of the coronavirus, ignoring all the basic protection measures .

Beyond the figures, the coronavirus epidemic in Iran also reveals old anti-Western reflexes: the supreme guide rejected the humanitarian aid proposed by the United States, Sunday March 22. Ali Khameini called the American leaders “charlatans” and “liars” according to the usual rhetoric.

More serious: Iran refused at the last moment the deployment of a team of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) who wanted to set up an inflatable hospital with 50 beds and an emergency team in Isfahan, the third city of Iran , to relieve pressure on the local health system. But the ultra-conservatives, who won the parliamentary elections and are now in the majority in parliament, have spread in the press and on social media, accusing MSF staff of being spies. However, all the equipment has already been flown to Iran. The NGO said it was ready to quickly redeploy its emergency team and equipment to other countries in the region that may need it.

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