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Iran's President Defends Govt's Response to Coronavirus Outbreak

Iran's President Defends Govt's Response to Coronavirus Outbreak

Wednesday, 18 March, 2020 - 09:00
FILE PHOTO: Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus, as they walk in the street in Tehran, Iran February 25, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via REUTERS
Asharq Al-Awsat

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected in a speech on Wednesday the widespread criticism that officials in the country acted too slowly and may have even covered up initial cases before infections rapidly spread across the Iran.

Addressing the cabinet, Rouhani said the government was "straightforward" with the nation, saying it announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.

"We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay," he added.

The government has come under heavy criticism for what has been seen as a slow and inadequate response. For weeks, government officials implored clerics to shut down crowded holy shrines to stymie the spread of the virus. The government finally closed the shrines this week, the Associated Press reported.

"It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it," stressed Rouhani.

Meanwhile, Iranian state media said the country has received medical aid from each of China and Turkey to help it fight the new coronvirus.

IRNA news agency reported Turkey's Health Ministry in Tehran as saying that Ankara has delivered a shipment that contains medical and health items under a deal inked between Iran's ambassador and the ministry to combat COVID-19.

China also sent its fifth shipment of medical aid to Iran. It was provided by residents of the Chinese city of Shanghai and a number of companies operating there.

Some other countries, including the UAE, Germany, France, the UK, Japan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, and Russia, have sent aid to Iran to help the country fight the potentially fatal disease.

According to DPA, Iran also received humanitarian aid from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the virus had killed 135 more people to raise the total deaths to 988.

Iran's state TV said on Wednesday that corona death toll reached 1,135, as 147 died in the past 24 hours, noting that the country has so far registered up to 17,361 cases.

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