Iranian Officials Respond to Coronavirus

The Iranian government responded slowly to the outbreak of the coronavirus and then scrambled to catch up as it spread quickly across 30 of Iran’s 31 provinces. The first reported cases—two deaths of elderly in Qom—were on February 19, 2020. By April 9, Iran reported 66,220 cases and 4,110 deaths from coronavirus. 

The regime belatedly closed schools, universities and cultural centers and cancelled Friday prayer in several provinces. But President Hassan Rouhani warned against overreacting to the outbreak. He accused the United States of using the virus to cause panic in the country.  "We must not let the United States attach a new virus to the coronavirus by stopping our social activities through tremendous fear; this is a conspiracy we see today and you see in foreign propaganda," Rouhani said in a press conference on February 26.

Related Analysis: Iran’s Response to Coronavirus

public worker
A worker disinfects a bus in Tehran 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei initially remained largely mute on government plans to fight the virus or the extent of the epidemic. On February 27, he thanked healthcare workers for their response to the outbreak. "We are hopeful that this great and heavy work will not take very long, and that this inauspicious virus will soon be overcome by God’s grace," Khamenei said.

On March 3, state television broadcast a speech by Khamenei in which he urged citizens to follow sanitary guidelines but downplayed the threat of the virus. “Don’t violate the recommendations and instructions of the responsible authorities in terms of prevention, in terms of keeping hands, face and living environment clean and not infecting these and preventing the infection of these,” he said. “The issue is an issue that will pass. It’s not something extraordinary. I don’t want to minimize the issue but let’s not make it very big either.” 

Khamenei also announced the deployment of 300,000 troops to fight the coronovirus. Officials had initially suggested that the soldiers would help sanitize the streets, direct traffic, and go to households to test and treat citizens. 

For a rundown on the spread of the coronavirus,see “Coronavirus Strikes Iran.” The following are statements on the coronavirus by government officials.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Mar. 3, 2020, in remarks on state television

"A few days ago, I thanked the medical staff for their dedication and sacrifices in caring for patients and in combating the Coronavirus. I feel it is my duty to once again thank these dear ones who are doing Jihad for the sake of God with their invaluable efforts."

"I feel obliged to express my gratitude to the families of the health care workers who patiently support their loved ones' round the clock efforts. I ask God to bring health to the sick, to grant His mercy on the deceased, and to bestow patience and tranquillity on their survivors."

"The health care guidelines for preventing infection from this virus should be observed. God has obliged us to feel responsible for our own health and that of others. Anything that helps prevent the spread of Coronavirus is a good deed and anything that helps spread it is a sin."

"The Coronavirus is not such a big tragedy and this country has surmounted graver ones. However, beseeching God, seeking intercession from the Prophet and his Household, and the prayers of the pure youth and pious are very effective in repelling major tragedies."

"All sectors of the country must fully cooperate with the Ministry of Health, which is at the forefront of the fight against Coronavirus. The Armed Forces and the sectors related to the Office of the Leader have also been ordered to do the same."

"Coronavirus has affected many countries. Our officials have reported with sincerity and transparency since day one. However, some countries where the outbreak has been more serious have tried to hide it. Of course, we ask God to heal the sick in those countries too."

"I don't want to say it’s unimportant, but let's not exaggerate it either. The Coronavirus will affect the country briefly & leave. But the experience it brings, and the actions of the people & the govt sectors, are like a public exercise that will remain as an achievement."

"The altruistic acts of compatriots in confronting the and Coronavirus are great. Such acts turn tragedies into blessings and threats into opportunities. We hope days of complete health are close to the dear Iranian nation. We pray for the health of the sick in other countries too."

Mar. 20, 2020, in a televised speech for Nowruz

“Regarding the recent disease – the spread of the Coronavirus – the sacrifices made were so dazzling that even foreigners felt obliged to admire them.

"Primarily, these acts of sacrifice were made by medical groups, physicians, nurses, assistants, managers and the staff working in hospitals. Alongside these people, there were volunteers from among the people, students, the clergy, Basijis and various individuals who helped the medical staff and who nursed patients. All these phenomena are a source of dignity and reputation. The people rushed to the help of physicians and doctors. There were also support groups, some of which offered their factories and even their houses with the aim of manufacturing the products needed for patients or for the masses of the people- products such as gloves, masks and the like.

"And there were public service groups such as the people who engaged in disinfecting streets or the places which are frequented by the people. Or the youth who decided to help the elderly by going to their door and doing their shopping for them. I can also mention the people who prepared goods and gave them to the people for free, including free gloves and masks. And some people helped salesmen and shopkeepers by not asking for rent. They said that the rent could be delayed and other such services rendered by the people.”

 

President Hassan Rouhani

Feb. 24, 2020, in a meeting with cabinet members:

“We give an assurance that we’d do our utmost to ensure the health of people. Accordingly, we immediately set up the headquarters to prevent and combat (coronavirus) and have mobilized all of our resources.”

“Our purpose is to control the disease in the shortest time with the minimum casualties.”

 

Feb. 25, 2020, in a meeting at the National Headquarters for Fighting Coronavirus:

“The decisions made by the headquarter are binding and unnecessary gatherings will be closed down.”

“In today's session, I emphasized to the Minister of Health and Medical Education that whatever medical personnel at hospitals need for their protection must be prioritized and provided as quickly as possible.”

“The report states that the virus is being controlled and number of people going to hospitals has reduced dramatically.”

“I want to emphasize that all health facilities and our caring personnel are trusted by all people and they have always been active at all junctures.”

“Activities throughout the country must continue like the previous weeks and months, but in public situations people have to exercise the health and medical care.”

“In schools, high schools, universities and work places, everybody should pay attention to health recommendations, but we must all continue our work and activities, because it is one of the enemies' plots to spread fear in our country and close down the country.”

“The National Headquarters for Fighting Coronavirus recommends people not to hold unnecessary gatherings.”

“Everyone must consider these decisions binding. Regarding its religious aspect, because these decisions are endorsed by the Supreme National Security Council and the Supreme Leader, we have to abide by them.”

 

Mar. 4, 2020, in a cabinet meeting:

“This disease is a widespread disease. It has reached almost all our provinces and in one sense it’s a global disease.”

 “They [the United States] have appeared with a mask of sympathy that ‘we also want to help the people of Iran.’ If you are really telling the truth, you should at least lift your sanctions on medicine. This would be a first step. And you also need to admit that you have done wrong to the Iranian nation and offer them an apology.”

“The worst thing the ill-wishers of Iran and Iranians can do is to exploit the circumstances brought up by the intrusion of one virus into the country to target our people.”

 

Mar. 11, 2020, in a cabinet meeting

“The entire government is playing a role in the committee. There is no individual in our administration that is not engaged.”

“What does a normal life mean? This means electricity, water, petrol, gas and monetary issues. Our effort is focused on making people’s lives, which are currently difficult, easier and more tolerable.”

 

Mar. 14, 2020, in a letter to world leaders

"This virus does not know any borders and chooses its victims without any political, religious, ethnic and racial consideration."

"Confronting the virus requires coordinated regional and international actions on the one hand, and taking tough measures, meeting the basic needs of the people, providing financial support to those affected by the suspension of economic businesses, enormous health and medical costs, etc. on the other hand; the implementation of these measures requires a strong economic power and tens of billions of dollars in funding."

"Their [United States] Secretary of State has impudently urged other countries to make sending humanitarian aid to Iran subject to the fulfilment of America's irrational and inhumane demands."

"There is no doubt that in the face of a dangerous global epidemic, Tehran and Qom are not far from Paris, London and New York, and any policy that weakens the economic structure and medical system, and limits financial resources for crisis management, will have direct effects on the fight against the epidemic in other countries."

"It is time for the international community to stand up to the United States' illegal and inhumane bullying and not let the unjust U.S. sanctions against Iran affect the fight against the deadly virus."

"U.S. sanctions against Iran -and following them by other nations- are not only illegal and contrary to U.N. Security Council resolution, but also unethical and inhumane, and its inhumane dimension today concerns no longer only the Iranian people, but the people of the region, and it encompasses other countries as well; this is not a collective punishment of the Iranian people, but a collective punishment against all humanity,"

 

Mar. 18, 2020, in a cabinet meeting

“Compare Tehran to London, Berlin, and Paris… See for yourselves what is going on there. Shop racks have been emptied and people got into a fight over a roll of toilet paper. The people there are concerned about foodstuffs and their hospitals say they have run out of beds. However, we rushed to supply the public requirements amid the situation.”

“Some ask why the government isn’t intervening, but I think we have intervened significantly.”

“Great things have been done (including) measures no other country has taken.”

 

Mar. 29, 2020, in a cabinet meeting

“One doctor gave me an example, saying it was like the flu that is there, going and coming, rising and falling, and coming again. So we have to prepare ourselves to live with such a virus until a definite cure or a vaccine is found, none of which has happened yet.

“After starting our daily activities, it doesn't mean that we should put all those health protocols aside. We have to continue this new lifestyle for a while, and maybe even in some areas the disease can give us a chance to do a part of our life electronically, and this is in the interest of our society.

“We may change our relationships with people in offices, community services, and even distribution centres that supply the necessary goods, so there will be changes in our lifestyle that may last for some time.

“But here I would like to emphasise to the dear people of the country that we have not made any decisions to date at the National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus unless we have discussed them in the specialized committees and the experts have identified the best way at that time.

“They told us that holy places should be closed for New Year's Eve, and we listened; they said Friday prayers should stop, we listened to everything the experts said and followed them.

“We can almost say that we started with unanimous decisions - it wasn't like 20% agreeing and 80% disagreeing, but we have always tried to come up with a single decision.

“But our dear people must know that besides health, which is the first principle for us today, production is also a principle; we cannot shut down production in the country; we cannot shut down the production and distribution of food and sanitation, or our shops and stores; We cannot close the public needs of people, including water, electricity, gas and transportation. This is not possible.

“That is, the management of the society is based on the idea that health, production, and security are the key to us; all the armed forces, the border guards, the police, and everybody are working.

“Another point I would like to say is that now is not the time for gathering teams and waging a political war; it is not about political war, nor party, nor ethnicity, nor national; but it is a public global issue.”

 

 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

 

Mar. 18, 2020, in an address for Nowruz

“The coronavirus laid bare the true nature of the cruel sanctions for the world. Sanctioning the health of Iranians was devised at the core of economic terrorism and sanctions from the outset.”

“When a nation’s right to access to medicine, food and other humanitarian items is violated, it will be placed on an unequal and more vulnerable position in comparison with the other countries.”

“We also need a mental cleansing for the fight against the sanctions and the coronavirus. This battle taught us the necessity for a renewal of the governance methods.”

“Our nation’s battle with the coronavirus in this short time span has removed the borders between the Iranians residing in the country and the expatriates. After feeling the threat of coronavirus, the patriotic Iranians set the delineation aside and gave priority to the health and survival of their fellows over all sorts of delineation. Such national approach would reciprocally make our responsibility heavier.”

“Today, the borders are not formed between the customary insiders and outsiders, or between the proponents and opponents of the government; whoever sides with the life of his or her fellow countrymen and at the same time fights against the carnage caused by the sanctions and coronavirus is an Iranian and an insider.”

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Javad Zarif (@jzarif_ir) on

 

Excerpted translation of Persian caption by PressTV:

“This is the ugliest face of a government addicted to sanctions which wants to revive its abortive maximum pressure campaign through weakening Iran in the face of the corona.”

“Iran's health system, its citizens and its government, like Europe and the United States, are engaged in countering the corona, but what doubles the suffering of Iranians, restricts choices in crisis management and aggravates concerns for citizens' livelihoods, is the togetherness of the sanctions and the corona.”

“The combination of sanctions and the corona is a more dangerous enemy and a more dreadful malady; sanctions make the corona bolder and taking difficult decisions for crisis management even harder.”

The international community “needs a moral will to defy and win over the excessive demands of the United States.”

Sanctions and compliance with them “should not lead to more war crimes.”

“In order for global efforts to come to fruition and for the world to come back to life, we must believe that all this earth is a land of struggle and wherever we lose, the whole world will fail.”

“The world is in debt to every effort, whether in Wuhan, Tehran, Milan, Madrid, New York; every bitter news and every unfortunate image of human death demands the mourning of the whole world.”

“If the coronavirus pandemic fails to stop madness in politics and irresponsible unilateralism, the world and moral values will fail again.”

 

March 30 in an op-ed in the Russian business newspaper Kommersant (translation by Tasnim News Agency)

“The illegal blockade of Iran’s financial resources by the sweeping U.S. sanctions makes access to drugs and medical equipment impossible.”

“This is leading to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“The world community must come to its senses and help Iran against economic, medical and drug terrorism.”

“The American policy of maximum pressure hampers Iranian exports, while Iran has fewer and fewer sources of investment.”

 

Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, Parliament Member from Qom

Feb. 24, 2020, following a parliament session:

“I think the performance of the administration in controlling the virus has not been successful. None of the nurses have access to proper protective gear.”

“So far, I have not seen any particular action to confront corona by the administration.”

 

Health Minister Saeed Namaki

Feb. 28, 2020, in a press briefing:

“Based on assessments it was felt that there was a need for closing all the schools in the country and for this reason all the schools in the country will be closed for three days starting from tomorrow.”

“We have a relatively difficult week ahead...as we see the trend, the main peak of the disease will be in the next week and coming days.”

 

March 5, 2020, on state television:

“Our method is not going into homes. We can use digital communications and ultimately the telephone. So we don’t see a reason to go to the doors of peoples’ homes.” 

“Home visits are possible in very rare circumstances, with prior coordination and out of complete necessity.” 

 

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi

Feb. 24, 2020, in a press conference:

“Currently, the situation has almost stabilized in the country, and we have managed to reduce the problem to the minimum.”

“With regard to quarantines – we are absolutely against them. Quarantines belong to pre-WWI – to the Plague, cholera, stuff like that... The Chinese themselves are not so pleased with the quarantine there. After all, quarantines have consequences. Let's suppose that you quarantine a certain city – what would the people of that city do? Look, we are carefully calculating all our decisions. We are analyzing and forecasting the effects of each decision we make. Let's assume that we shut down Qom for ten consecutive days. Everybody would go traveling, and this will cause the disease to spread all over the country.”

 

Feb. 25, 2020, in a video posted on social media:

“I wanted to tell you that I got corona. I had a fever yesterday. The tests came back positive last night. I isolated myself. Just a few moments ago, I was told that the final test came. I’ll start taking medicine. Generally, I feel fine. I just felt a bit tired, I had a fever, and it will drop.”

“Be sure with the effort of the medical staff and ministry of health headed by the [health minister] and with your support and the state and military within the coming weeks, we’ll be victorious against this virus.”

“We’ll defeat corona. Be assured. I’m saying this deep from my heart. This virus is democratic, and it doesn’t distinguish between poor and rich or statesman and an ordinary citizen.”

“Many might get infected, but we have enough effective medicine, take care of yourselves. Take care of the nurses and doctors who work heroically.”

 

Apr. 4, 2020, in an interview on state television

“We are still concerned about the virus, for example with the level of traffic in Tehran today and queues of cars stuck on freeways, because these people can take the virus to their homes or workplaces.”

“Even a medium level of virus here can spread to nearby cities with the high level of job-related traffic between nearby cities and Tehran.”

“We are fighting on two fronts, alongside the fight against COVID-19. We need to consider our sanctions-hit economy.”

 

Mojtaba Zonnour, Chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee

Feb. 17, 2020, in a statement:

“My test has come out positive… there is nothing to worry about. I am in quarantine now. God willing our people will defeat the coronavirus.”

 

Mahmoud Sadeghi, Parliament Member from Tehran

Feb. 25, 2020, in a Twitter post after announcing his coronavirus infection:

“I send this message in a situation where I have little hope of surviving in this world.”

 

Kianoush Jahanpour, Iranian Health Ministry spokesman

Feb. 25, 2020, in an interview with The Associated Press:

“At the moment we absolutely support the temporary closure of any type of human gathering, including tourist areas and pilgrimage sites.”

 

Minoo Mohraz, Health Ministry Official

Feb. 21, 2020, in a press conference:

The virus “possibly came from Chinese workers who work in Qom and traveled to China.”

“Based on existing reports, the spread of coronavirus started in Qom and with attention to people’s travels has now reached several cities in the country including Tehran, Babol, Arak, Isfahan, Rasht and other cities.”

“It’s possible that it exists in all cities in Iran.”

 

IRGC Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami

Mar. 26, 2020, in a press conference

“If U.S. government needs Iran’s help, we can contribute and provide them with necessary requirements at this critical condition.”

“The Americans put our nation under pressure and economic sanctions to create livelihood problems for them, but fortunately, by God’s grace, US officials failed in this path, too.”

“Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, we (the IRGC) began work.”

“We have the capacity to increase the number of our mobile and makeshift hospitals if need be.”

 

Mar. 4, 2020, in a military ceremony

“We are now dealing with a biological war but the nation will get through it with resistance and power.”

“We have learned to advance our Revolution by changing and improving patterns; we have passed many problems but the enemy is stressing on economic pressure and psychological operations and is taking advantage of every opportunity to connect these two issues to create a hard time for people

“Today, even in the fight against the coronavirus, which may be the product of Americans’ biological warfare, we will emerge victorious.”

 

Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi

 

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council

Mar. 18, 2020, in a tweet

"Instead of falsely accusing Iran and China, US officials need to respond to international inquiries about America’s role in creating and spreading the coronavirus."

 

Mar. 24, 2020, in a tweet

“It is only U.S. statesmen who regard the coronavirus as an opportunity to perpetuate their animosity toward Iran, like the American treasury secretary’s joy over the coronavirus epidemic in China and its positive economic results for the United States, or the idea of launching a military strike on Iran proposed by delusional Pompeo.”

 

Apr. 5, 2020, in a tweet

"The sanction on health items is an illegal and inhumane act and a symbol of Trump's open hostility to the Iranian people. The US opposition to granting facilities to Iran by the International Monetary Fund to meet the required medical items to fight against the coronavirus is a real example of crimes against humanity."

"Trump is more dangerous than coronavirus."

 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi

Apr. 6, 2020, in a televised news conference

“Iran has never asked and will not ask America to help Tehran in its fight against the outbreak ... But America should lift all its illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran.”

 

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Photo Credits: Public Worker via Tasnim News Agency  (CC BY 4.0)

 

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