Iran accuses enemies of coronavirus scaremongering

Al-Monitor – “One of the conspiracies by our enemies is to spread public panic in order to push our country toward lockdown,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani told a meeting of the National Committee on Combatting Coronavirus. The body was formed by high-ranking officials in response to the coronavirus epidemic in Iran, which has recorded the highest fatalities outside China, where the disease was identified late last year.

Later at a Feb. 26 cabinet meeting, Rouhani rejected demands for a quarantine on affected cities. “There is no such decision in our plans,” he said, “but people diagnosed with initial symptoms will have to be quarantined.” The Iranian president has already made it clear that he expects normal operations to resume as of the next Iranian week starting on Saturday. “The virus issue should not be allowed to be used as a tool by the enemies to force a halt upon our work, activities and production.” Rouhani noted that the coronavirus committee holds the ultimate authority to decide on extending any closures.

State media outlets reported that at least 24 people had been arrested by Iran’s cyber police for allegedly sowing panic on social media, where a wide range of conflicting tallies continues to be released. In its Feb. 26 statement, Iran’s Health Ministry raised the death toll to 19, with a total of 139 people confirmed to be infected with the disease.

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