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WHO medics, supplies arrive in Iran to fight coronavirus


Source: Iran Daily

The World Health Organization on Monday sent its first planeload of assistance to Iran to help fight coronavirus, dispatching six medics with tons of medical equipment and test kits aboard a UAE military aircraft. "Today's flight will carry 7.5 tons of medical equipment and supplies, primarily the critical items needed for infection prevention and control to support health care workers in Iran," said Robert Blanchard from the WHO in Dubai.

Official Iran's statistics on coronavirus as of March 3rd
Infections: 2336
Deaths: 77
Recovered: 535

As the supplies worth more than $300,000 - including gloves, surgical masks and respirators - were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai, Blanchard warned that global supplies were running low.

"What we see now is that demand has greatly exceeded our available stocks... and we are struggling to get access to more supplies."

The six-member medical team is made up of doctors, epidemiologists and laboratory specialists who will help the Islamic Republic detect and control the virus, Blanchard said, adding it has been the first WHO team to be sent to Iran since the crisis began.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in Geneva that the team will review measures to deal with the outbreak and provide technical guidance.

WHO operations manager Nevien Attalla said some 15,000 health workers in Iran would benefit from the supplies which were the "first big shipment which supports the response to coronavirus."

The UAE provided the military transport plane for the flight to Tehran. The plane landed in the Iranian capital's Imam Khomeini Airport later in the day.

So far, 129 cases have been confirmed across the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, many of them pilgrims returning from Iran.

"Aid should reach all people," Sultan Mohammed Al Shamsi, the UAE's undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, said at Dubai's Al Maktoum International Airport.

European offer

The British Foreign Office said on Monday Britain, Germany, and France have offered a five-million-euro (5.6-million-dollar) package to Iran to help fight coronavirus in the country.

The trio would provide the support through WHO or other UN agencies, it said in a statement.

Death toll jumps

Iran on Monday raised its coronavirus death toll to 66 - the highest outside China - with 1,501 confirmed cases.

"The definite latest numbers we have are 523 new infections and 12 new deaths so the total number of those infected is 1,501 until now and the number of deaths is 66," Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeisi announced on television.

In two days, the number of confirmed cases more than doubled.

Raeisi said Iran's Armed Forces and the all-volunteer Basij force stood ready to mobilize 300,000 troops to help combat the virus. Already, military vehicles have been spraying disinfectant on streets in major cities.

Those troops would help sanitize public areas and run down leads on who infected people had contacted before falling ill, Raeisi said.

The new deaths include a member of the Expediency Council who had fallen sick from the new coronavirus.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a north Tehran hospital on Monday at the age of 71, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness.

He previously served as the head of the presidency under former presidents Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, now the country's Leader. Mirmohammadi's mother had died of the coronavirus in recent days as well, Iranian media reported.

The 45-member Expediency Council advises the Leader, as well as settles law-making disputes between Parliament and the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional body that also oversees the country's elections. 

Mirmohammadi's death comes as other top officials have contracted the virus in Iran. Those sick include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi.

'Difficult weeks ahead'

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei, who addressed journalists by teleconference over concerns about the virus said Iran "will have two difficult weeks ahead."

Rabiei said containing the epidemic is currently the country's top priority.

He said despite suffering an initial shock, the country soon regained control over the overall situation, and hailed that the Iranian people in various sectors for enhancing their cooperation with one another and with the administration in the face of the predicament.

The country has set up 107 new workshops tasked with making up for the shortage of disinfectants and sanitary items, Rabiei said.

The production of nanomasks for hospital staff will reach a daily 300,000 by the end of the week, the official said, noting that all the machinery required for manufacturing the item existed inside the country.

Rabiei also noted that experts with the Ministry of Defense had helped develop the testing kits used for diagnosing the infection.

The country, he added, had kick-started efforts to manufacture around 1.5 million facemasks per day. It has also begun distributing imported masks among the public. The official noted that more than 1.2 million masks hoarded across the country have been confiscated.

More than 700 pharmacies have been assigned by the Health Ministry for countrywide sales and distribution of facemasks and hand sanitizers, he said, and put the volume of domestic alcohol production at 400,000 liters per day.

Rabiei said given its stockpiles of imported goods, the country currently faced no shortage of staples. He also said the government had begun addressing the economic losses that had been suffered since the onset of the outbreak.

"What we seek to do is not only to put this monumental scourge behind us, but also to enhance the level of the country's overall health situation in its aftermath," Rabiei said.

He hailed the Islamic Republic for being one of the most transparent countries in providing facts and figures since the start of the outbreak, as opposed to certain countries, which have withheld information due to political and economic reasons.

The official said the Islamic Republic would willingly accept help from all countries to deal with the situation except "the dishonest states," referring to Washington's recent alleged offer of assistance.

He mentioned Washington's enforcement of severe economic pressure and currency impediments against Iran as it alleges readiness to help the Islamic Republic.

Crackdown on hoarders

Iran's Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeisi said some people had begun stockpiling medical supplies for profit in the country, urging prosecutors to show "no mercy for hoarders."

"Hoarding sanitizing items is playing with people's lives and it is not ignorable," Raeisi said.

Raeisi also urged officials to grant "maximum" leave to prisoners.

AFP, AP, Reuters, and Press TV contributed to this story.

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