Iran’s Minister, Who Played Down Threat, Tests Positive To Coronavirus

Iran’s Minister, Who Played Down Threat, Tests Positive To Coronavirus

By Agency Reports on February 25, 2020
Iraj Harirchi, Iran's deputy health minister

Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister has been infected with the new coronavirus, a ministry official said on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, amid a major outbreak in the Islamic republic.

“The coronavirus test for Mr Harirchi, the deputy health minister who was on the front lines combating the coronavirus, was positive,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, a media adviser to the health minister, said in a tweet.

Iraj Harirchi coughed occasionally and appeared to be sweating during a press conference on Monday with government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

Iran’s Health Ministry has dismissed a claim by a lawmaker from Qom that the death toll from the disease in the holy Shi’ite city is about four times higher than the official number and that the government is covering up the extent of the disease’s spread in Iran.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, February 24, 2020 Qom lawmaker Ahmad Amirabadi-Farahani was quoted by the semiofficial ILNA news agency as saying that about 50 people had died in the city after being infected with the virus.

But Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi insisted the death toll in the country was 12 people and he challenged Amirabadi-Farahani to provide the ministry with the names of those he claimed had died from the virus.

“This number [of 50 deaths] is false,” Harirchi said at a news conference on live television. “This is not the time for political confrontations.”

“If anyone is making such claims, that person should send us the names [of those who are said to have died],” he added, saying the ministry “is very confident” about its statistics.

“I say it here publicly that I will resign if the number of those who died in Qom due to this disease is half or even one-quarter of the number [provided by Amirabadi-Farahani],” Harirchi told journalists.

Amirabadi-Farahani accepted the challenge and claimed he had given a list of 40 of the deceased in Qom to the health minister.

Harirchi said the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in Iran was just 61, but added that some 900 other suspected cases were being tested.

With 12 deaths, Iran has by far the most coronavirus deaths of any country in the world except for China, where the disease originated.

If the totals of 12 dead from 61 infections are accurate, Iran would also have the highest incidence of death due to the coronavirus, of nearly 20 percent. The worldwide mortality rate due to the virus is approximately 2 percent.

A day before his statement in parliament, Amirabadi-Farahani criticized the government in a tweet for “not taking the coronavirus [outbreak] in Qom seriously.”


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