Fast-spreading coronavirus pushes Iran closer to lockdown

Al-Monitor – Iran is closer to an effective shutdown amid a worsening coronavirus epidemic that was first reported last Wednesday in the city of Qom, the center of its powerful clergy and home to much-visited holy shrines. As of Feb. 25, the official death toll from the country’s Health Ministry stood at 15, a figure likely to jump as suspected cases approach the 1,000 mark in at least 11 affected provinces.

The figures differ widely in various reports. Ahmad Ami-Abadi, one of the lawmakers representing Qom in Iran’s parliament, claimed that the toll was well above 50, pressing the Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi to resign. Harirchi has sparked fury by rejecting demands for imposing a full quarantine on Qom, describing such measures as outdated World War I practices. The health official himself has now tested positive, a sign that others could already be in the same boat following back-to-back meetings and joint pressers.

“We will definitely kill the disease in the weeks to come,” Harirchi vowed with a raised fist in a viral video after officially joining the list of confirmed cases. “This virus does not differentiate between authorities and ordinary people, [but] we do possess the remedy.”

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