Iran's Response to Coronavirus

As of March 2021, more than year after the first COVID cases were reported, Iranian leaders struggled with public messaging. The government had responded slowly to the outbreak of the coronavirus and then scrambled to catch up as it spread quickly across the country. Top government officials initially refused to acknowledge the severity of Iran’s outbreak, one of the early hotspots outside China. On February 24, 2020, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied that the government had concealed the extent of the outbreak while repeatedly mopping his brow. He tested positive for COVID-19 one day later. President Hassan Rouhani branded international news about the outbreak as “foreign propaganda” and a “conspiracy” to spread panic. "We must not let the United States attach a new virus to the coronavirus by stopping our social activities through tremendous fear," the president said on February 26.

Related Material: Rouhani’s Evolving Virus on COVID-19

But by early March, the regime was forced to belatedly closed schools, universities and cultural centers and cancel Friday prayers after the disease spread to all 31 provinces. The government dispatched security forces, firemen and health workers to disinfect streets and public transportation. It suspended Parliament indefinitely after 23 lawmakers – nearly 10 percent of the Majles – tested positive.

Khamenei wears a mask
Khamenei wears a mask

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assured Iranians that the virus would recede over time. “I do not want to say this problem is unimportant, but we should not make it too big either,” he said in a televised speech on March 3. “This incident will afflict the country for a temporary period of time, and then it will be gone.” On March 12, Khamenei speculated without evidence that the virus could have been a “biological attack” in a statement.

Related Material: Iranian Officials Infected by COVID-19

The government shifted its public messaging as the death toll increased. Health officials encouraged mask wearing and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. “This means people still need to remain at home and avoid any unnecessary trips, visits and shopping,” Harirchi said on April 13. Top political leaders, Khamenei and Rouhani included, began appearing in face masks. “We should plan production long-term based on a pessimistic view that we might face this virus ... for months,” President Rouhani told business leaders on April 25. The following are comments by senior Iranian officials on the coronavirus from February 2020 to March 2021.


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Feb. 27, 2020, in remarks to healthcare workers:

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the doctors, nurses and medical staff for confronting and combating the recent disease, which has come into the country. I would also like to thank the Ministry of Health and the colleagues of the Minister of Health for their efforts and hard work. I arranged today's event only to express this gratitude in the presence of Dr. Marandi, the honorable president of the Academy of Medical Sciences. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the respectable brothers and sisters, physicians, nurses and medical staff. May Allah bestow success and prosperity on all of you. Your work is very valuable. It enhances the value of the medical and nursing community in the society, and more importantly, it attracts divine favor. Almighty God will surely reward you. 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. God willing, you will all be successful.


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.”


Oct. 24, 2020, at a meeting of the National Task Force:

“You may have legitimate criticisms and it is alright to express them, but criticizing is different from insulting and denigrating. Such behavior and denigrating is the American method, which they use in their debates and in their propaganda. They have disgraced themselves to such an extent that one of their prominent politicians has said that the world looks at them with apprehension and scorn.”

“However, our way is based on Islam and the Quran. In other words, one can criticize, but one should not denigrate others in doing so.”

“Since the security and economic aspects of this issue originate from the disease itself, the priority and basis in decision-making is the people’s health.”

“When the Ministry of Health determines what these restrictions are, other organizations should observe and impose them without taking any other considerations into account.”

“Controlling points of entry to the country, imposing restrictions on unnecessary travel between cities, convincing the people, and imposing strict regulations concerning public transportation and pubic environments are some examples of such restrictions. The main responsibility for imposing these regulations and supervising their implementation is with the Supreme National Security Council and the Police Force.”

“The administration must introduce some support measures. In addition, charities and people should also take action and help the needy, because this is one of the best deeds and one of the best ways for getting close to God.”

“According to the experts, if those who are infected are identified in the first or second day, and if steps are taken quickly to treat them, the number of victims will decrease considerably. This is a very necessary task.”


Jan. 8, 2021, in a televised speech:

“Importing American or English vaccines to the country is prohibited. I have said this to the officials, and I am now announcing this publicly. If the Americans had been able to produce a vaccine, this Corona disaster would not have occurred in their own country. A few days ago, there were 4,000 deaths in their country in one day. If they know how to make a vaccine, and if their Pfizer factory knows how to produce one, they can use it for themselves so that there won’t be so many deaths there. The same is true of England. They are not trustworthy or reliable. I don’t know, perhaps they wish to test a vaccine on other nations to see if it works or not. And of course, I do not trust the French either. The reason is their history in giving us contaminated blood [France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies].”


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.”



Apr. 11, 2020, in a press conference:

“Easing restrictions does not mean ignoring health protocols ... Social distancing and other health protocols should be respected seriously by people.”


Apr. 12, 2020, in a press conference:

“We had a sanctions virus, to which the coronavirus was added, but you [Europe and the United States] did not have the sanctions virus. You have one virus while we have two viruses.”

“We did better than you in the fight against the coronavirus.”

“This is an honor for all, for all our loved ones and people. Yes, our situation is relatively good in the fight against the disease and the dangerous virus, and our situation is better in comparison with some countries.”


Apr. 18, 2020, in a press conference:

“A considerable number of people have not only observed health directives, but also have abided by the ‘stay-at-home’ motto very well and have not left home except for necessary affairs.”

“The Ministry of Health and Medical Education should work closely with relevant institutions to offer training to people and convince them of the necessity of abiding by the regulations and directives communicated to businesses which have resumed work.”


Apr. 20, 2020, in a call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte:

“In these difficult conditions, American pressure on the people of Iran is more inhumane than at any other time and the continuation of it is a barbaric crime against a great people and against all human principles and international regulations.”


Apr. 25, 2020, in a meeting with heads of Iranian private companies:

“Our first request is that we should plan production long-term based on a pessimistic view that we might face this virus ... for months.”

“Maybe (we will face this) till the end of the year, we do not know.”


Apr. 26, 2020, during a meeting of the National Coronavirus Headquarters:

“This is the first step in opening up religious sites that are of great interest to the people, and God willing, we hope that the white areas will expand day by day and we will have better conditions while the people observe.”

“Of course, our people have always come to the scene whenever there have been floods, earthquakes and other problems. Now, the month of Ramadan is also one of those occasions during which people should step forth and help in the face of hardships and problems.”


Apr. 28, 2020, in a phone call with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa:

“While the world is engulfed by the coronavirus epidemic and the policies must be shifted towards relations with (other) countries, sadly the US has intensified the unlawful sanctions against the Iranian nation, violated the world health regulations besides trampling on international rules, and is even preventing health and medical trade with Iran.”


Apr. 28, 2020, in a press conference:

“Excessive fear, excessive anxiety, excessive worrying is worse than this corona itself and this virus and can really break up people’s lives and take away people’s comfort. But at the same time we shouldn’t be careless, meaning there must not be excessive anxiety and worrying and there must be necessary caution.”


Apr. 29, 2020, in a press statement:

“I’m telling our dear people, because it is not clear when this virus outbreak is over, we should stand ready to keep working and continue to acquire science and knowledge, conduct research, keep the society alive and give hope to the society, with the assumption that unfortunately this virus is here to stay with people for quite some time.”

“We should base our activities on this assumption because today no one in the world can predict when this epidemic will be over. No one can tell how many days or weeks or months from now the epidemic will be over. So, we should go about our activities from a pessimistic perspective and with long-term planning, keeping in mind that this virus is here to stay.”

“This is the solution: We should abide by all health protocols, and don’t forget that it is necessary to work, produce and conduct activities while taking the required precautions.”

“Once, we would keep telling people to stay at home; now, we are telling people to stay home, too, if they have nothing essential to do outside. But we said they may leave home from a certain date onward to do necessary work and run essential errands while taking precautions.”

“We have urged people to stay out of home for as short a period of time as possible before returning home. That means we have moved from social distancing to smart social distancing.”

“When it comes to the coronavirus issue, the key solution is in people’s hands. As no treatment has been developed, yet, for the disease, and no specific medicine has been made for the virus, and no vaccine has been developed, the most important thing is to take care.”


Sept. 12, 2020 at a meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus:

"Families should not pay attention to the enemies’ propaganda and anger over the reopening of educational centres throughout the country. They are upset about how Islamic Iran has maintained its solidarity despite all the sanctions and pressure."

"Hybrid education is applied with the measures taken, and students, in addition to the opportunity of attending classes, can also use the Internet and radio and television. The measures taken by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Science starting from last week have create a new vitality and spirit among the younger ones and showed that our country cares about the future of its young population."

"At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, European and American countries were in a difficult situation, so that people rushed to stores and snatched masks that were going from one country to another at airports, but in our country there is no discrimination between ethnic and religious groups and even between Iranians, no non-Iranian in the treatment of coronavirus."

"With the coronavirus crisis, [the international community] did not even announce that the minimum drug embargo would be lifted, even with our country's request for a $5 billion loan to provide medicine and vaccines, and the United States did not allow it”.

"The rulers of the White House today have no sense of humanity...Above all, the countries that are our friends and our country's money is in their banks are not willing to release this money due to America’s pressure and everyone has retreated against the United States’ pressure and oppression. Such a crime is unprecedented in history."

"No one should say that schools, universities, markets and businesses should be closed for people’s health, because this is a wrong thing to do. Closing down is not the way to deal with coronavirus."


Sept. 19, 2020, at a meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus:

"The statistics presented in the task force meeting today show that the rate of observance of people has decreased to 62% in the last week from 82%, which is very worrying because if people do not pay attention to warnings and public education, we will face a big problem in the coming months."

"Coronavirus is not an issue that will end next month, and even if the vaccine is available, we should establish a new lifestyle."

"Investments should be directed from some matters to more necessary matters. Today we need to intensify investment in health, healthcare, knowledge-based economy, digital economy and e-government."


Oct. 24, 2020 at a meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus:

"Currently, there is no way to fight this virus other than observing health protocols."

"Like during the war when we were not allowed to buy military equipment, at the beginning of coronavirus outbreak, almost no one gave us the equipment we needed, such as diagnostic kits, respirators, ICUs and even masks, but relying on knowledge-based companies, we produced this equipment quickly and now we have no problems in this regard."

"In the case of coronavirus, it became clear to us how important it is for us to rely on our inner strength and facilities and not to rely on others, and we realised that in the days, we should stand on our own two feet because others, even in matters of human rights, health care and the saving human lives, do not help despite what they chant."

"Both the Ministry of Health and experts say that the virus in the recent months is a European mutated virus, the transmission rate and power of which has increased nine fold."

"Severe restrictions in high-risk areas, the necessary precautions to prevent quarantine violations, and legal penalties for violators have been designated".

"We need the help of mosques and the Basij to help provide and distribute the needs of people who are in quarantine."


Nov. 7, 2020, at a meeting of the National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus:

"Our country's decision in any situation has always been clear and our nation will continue its resistance and patience until the other side surrenders to the law and regulations." 

"It is only with the cooperation of the people and strict observance of all health instructions that can we see more peace in society in the fight against coronavirus." 

"The problem is that although ensuring the health of the people is the first and basic priority of the government, but providing livelihood and managing cultural and social affairs should not be neglected."

"It is true that using masks is very important, but it is not enough to just use masks, and physical distancing and avoiding communities and implementing other health regulations are also as important."

“With the arrival of the cold season, the presence of people in closed spaces and indoors naturally increases, which is naturally difficult to properly ventilate these spaces, and therefore it is necessary for people to avoid gathering indoors as much as possible."

“This category of citizenship should not violate the public rights and social health of society because not violating the standards of social health is part of the public and citizenship duty that must be observed and secured in the same way as public and citizenship rights.”

“Dealing with the coronavirus outbreak is an easy issue if health protocols are followed, but if members of the society ignore health protocols and become ill, it will be a difficult issue for the entire country.”


Nov. 15, 2020, in a presidential statement:

"Due to the mutation of coronavirus and the rise of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, and at the suggestion of the Ministry of Health and the Coronavirus Operational Headquarters, the Comprehensive Coronavirus Combat Plan was approved at the National Task Force against Coronavirus, based on which, severe restrictions will be mandatory in various cities across the country as of next week [starting on Saturday]. In these conditions, the moral, religious and revolutionary duty of all of us is to preserve the life of society and to pay attention to public responsibility and to act in accordance with the requirements of these conditions. Therefore, I consider it my duty to inform the honorable people of Iran of the following:

"1- I announce public mobilization of the nation and the government to confront the third wave of coronavirus in the country;

"2- I call on all government departments and other branches and institutions to give assistance to the Ministry of Health and the medical staff of the country with all their facilities by strictly implementing the resolutions of the National Task Force against Coronavirus;

"3- I call on the Coronavirus Operational Headquarters to pursue the implementation by the responsible agencies of all the resolutions of the National Task Force;

"4- I call on the Plan and Budget Organization to immediately provide the funds required by the Ministry of Health and other agencies responsible for dealing with coronavirus in the implementation of this plan;

"5- I call on the Ministry of Health to fully – and without any negligence – implement the plan to monitor the quarantine of patients and identify the contact and warning ring and, if necessary, impose fines;

"6- I call on the Police and the Basij to implement in full and without exception the disciplinary decisions, the rules of physical distancing and severe health restrictions, and the officers to take action against the very small minority of violators who endanger the health security of the society;

"7- I call on the responsible media and politicians across the country to give priority to the task of informing and persuading the public in observing the health protocols, considering the definite priority of protecting the lives of the people, and confront political and partisan views of coronavirus;

"8- I also call on the intelligent and honorable people of Iran to protect other people’s general rights and their rights to life, to observe the rules of fighting coronavirus as their religious and social duty, and to invite everyone to this social duty, and do not tolerate any kind of negligence or abuse in this regard."


Feb. 6, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force:

"The overall situation in the country is such that we can hope to stop the fourth wave of this pandemic if we all work together. It is essential to reduce traffic, gatherings and strictly follow the health protocols."

"As the amount of observance of protocols decreases, we should expect to see an increase in the number of cases and deaths in the coming weeks."

Stating that there are three important issues regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the President added, "The first issue is prevention, which fortunately today in the world there is a relatively strong consensus on its solutions, namely the use of masks, regular hand washing and avoiding gatherings".

"The second issue is the treatment of a disease for which no definite and effective treatment has been found yet. And the third issue is vaccination and collective safety for which the World Health Organization has issued an emergency license to use vaccines due to special conditions of the pandemic, but it still has a long way to go until we reach an acceptable level of vaccination."

"Even if all facilities are available and a sufficient number of vaccines have been produced, the two stages of vaccination of nearly 8 billion people in the world, or at least 60% of this population, will take a long time."

"All organs have prepared themselves for public vaccination and vaccination will start this week during the 10-day Fajr celebration and the national holiday of the Iranian nation, with the priority of medical staff.”

"Even if a sufficient number of vaccines are available, we should know that widespread vaccination takes a long time, and even after the general vaccination, since none of the vaccines is 100% effective, it is necessary to follow the health protocols with complete accuracy, and I call on all media outlets to continue to advise people to strictly follow the health protocols."


Feb. 13, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force:

"Care about the country's entry points, especially from countries with mutated viruses, should be done more carefully and the testing and quarantine steps of passengers should be observed with sensitivity."

"Despite vaccination, observing health protocols and avoiding unnecessary gatherings and observing physical distancing is a necessity and we must be careful that the new lifestyle we have adopted does not return to its previous state."

"This means moving towards the fourth wave of coronavirus and therefore in order to have a good Nowruz, we must all join hands to prevent the fourth wave."

"We should all take care that, God forbid, celebrations do not turn into mourning ceremonies."


Feb. 20, 2021 at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force:

"During one year, we came to the conclusion that the lifestyle should be changed to fight the disease because we can no longer go shopping and travel like before."

"From the first day we noticed the virus entering the country, the cabinet decided to announce it to the people immediately."

"The suspicions created by the anti-revolutionaries outside the country, which was that the government has not told people the truth and presented unrealistic statistics in this regard, is completely false and pure slander."

"Today, we have all realized that this virus is very dangerous and cannot be easily eradicated, so we must prepare ourselves for next year... People must know this well that today's situation is not normal."


Mar. 6, 2021 at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force:

"The resilience of the country's health system has a certain limit. Public cooperation in observing health protocols is still necessary."

"In today's meeting of the National Task Force Against Coronavirus, it was approved that travel to red and orange cities is prohibited, so no one should plan to travel to these areas, and travel to other areas should be done with full observance of health principles."

"People should know that there is a limit to the production of vaccines in the world and it is not possible to produce vaccines for the entire population, and there is no justice in the distribution of vaccines."

"The lifestyle that people have adopted in the past year should be maintained for another year."


Mar. 13, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force: 

"Statistics and charts from all over the country show that except for one or two provinces, the situation in the country is good.”

“But we need to take this in mind that that the risk of the fourth wave of the disease is not eliminated and we must work to maintain this good condition."

"Considering that we are still dealing with this disease and have not yet reached a reassuring and stable point, this year we must hold the visits with masks and without shaking hands”.

"It should be noted that the danger of the fourth wave is not eliminated yet and this danger may be ahead of us at any moment.”

"I ask all the people to observe health protocols so that there is no danger for any family."


Mar. 17, 2021, in televised remarks:

"Next year is the year of harnessing coronavirus, and the year of victory of the Iranian nation in the economic war and, God willing, will be the year of a good economic movement and prosperity and surge in production."

"Despite all the hardships and problems, our country's economic growth has been positive in the first nine months of the year, which is very valuable and worthy of appreciation."

"Coronavirus has affected all economic, cultural and social sectors of people's jobs, economy and daily life. We have made appropriate plans for each of these cases."

 "Very good measures have been taken in the field of purchasing and manufacturing the COVID vaccine, and we hope that the domestic vaccine will be available to the people next year, and undoubtedly next year will be a better year for controlling this disease."


Mar. 20, 2021, in a Nowruz message:

"In the year 1399, coronavirus doubled the difficulty of sanctions and economic war for Iranians. Iranian nation entered the battle against coronavirus, not only deprived of the usual global aid to combat this pandemic, but also not even having access to its wealth in foreign banks."

"But on the other hand, this difficult and cold season, and this great plague, and the simultaneous struggle on several different fronts became a brilliant and proud chapter in the history of Iran due to the epic of patience and perseverance of the Iranian nation."

"Next year will be the year of widespread access to vaccines and control of COVID, and the year of taking advantage of 3 years of resistance and the end of sanctions. We defeated the sanctions once and we will surely defeat the sanctions together again."


April 8, 2021, in a videoconference

“Anti-Iran media are falsely blaming the [Iranian] administration and the Central Bank for a delay in the purchase of vaccine."

“We are one of the first countries to place an order on time. The United States has blocked us and delayed the transfer of our money for a month or two. That’s why our turn in the COVAX complex is a little behind."


April 10, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force:

"Unfortunately, despite all efforts, today we have entered the fourth wave of coronavirus in the country and the most important factor is the British virus entering the country from Iraq through the borders of Khuzestan and Ilam."

"Violation of quarantine by infected people is very dangerous and must be dealt with legally."

"If the regulations we have specified for the red and orange zones are not implemented, the do not yield any effective results."

"We have to deal with violations because a person who is infected must observe quarantine and must not participate in any gatherings."

"In fighting coronavirus, if more than 90% of the people follow the instructions, there will be no more waves and very little danger threatens us."

"Someone might say that it would be good if you closed borders and airports so that the British virus would not enter the country, but could anyone in the world do that? Are the European countries that closed the borders and flights safe? They all have the British virus."


April 17, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force:

"To succeed against COVID, strict, full observance of all health protocols is necessary."

"All protocols, including washing hands, wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and circles, not traveling, and isolation and complete quarantine of the infected people must be observed completely and accurately so that we can pass this difficult stage."

"If a problem arises, we must all work together and join hands, and all media should include both warnings and making the society calm at the same time."

"We must all work together to achieve observance of protocols to above 90 percent."

"When the situation is calm and the death rate decreases, everyone competes with each other to record this success in their own name, but when the situation is the other way round, everyone seeks to blame someone else, while we must all work together."

"According to what has been said, injecting the vaccine once is not enough and it may be necessary to inject the vaccine again in another 6 months, so we should think about providing a lot of vaccines even for the coming years."

"When we were after buying vaccines from Russia and China, some said that if you get the vaccine from Russia or China, we will not get it because it is dangerous."

"Of course, the vaccine that is purchased must be approved by the Ministry of Health."

"The government has done everything in its power to prepare the domestic vaccine sooner... because it is important for us to stand on our own two feet and we are very hopeful that we will be able to use the domestic vaccine in the summer."

"By the end of this week, about 1.4 million people will be vaccinated and the first group will receive the vaccine, and we are determined to vaccinate people over 65."

"As for hospital beds, we will try to prepare thousands of beds in the remaining months of the government's term of office."

"I am confident that with each other's cooperation and efforts, and the self-sacrifice of the medical staff, who carry a heavy burden, we will overcome these problems in the coming weeks."


May 1, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force: 

"This situation is very dangerous and means that if these conditions continue, we will get out of the fourth wave of the disease later."

"Not following the health guidelines is to the detriment of the person himself, then to the family and then to the whole society, so everyone should pay more attention to health guidelines."

"It is better to get vaccinated today than not to get vaccinated. Vaccines can improve the condition somewhat and be effective in saving lives and breaking the chain of the disease."

"Vaccination of the second group (elderly and those with underlying medical conditions) has also begun and we hope that the vaccination of this group will be completed in two months."

"People should be sure that we will do our best to import foreign vaccines and support the production of domestic vaccines, and our goal is for people to benefit from the vaccine sooner."

"We hope that if the domestic vaccines are provided in the time announced previously, we will be able to see better conditions in business and educational issues in the second half of this year."

"Vaccination does not mean that the person is immune, because it takes about one or two months for this person's body to reach the right condition. The vaccine can only be effective against one type of virus, and a person may be exposed to another mutated virus."


May 6, 2021 at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force

"The decline in observing the guidelines after each peak show that people have not adopted a COVID lifestyle, so lifestyle change and its adaptation to COVID should be one of our main priorities."

"Like last year, we can increase the monitoring and observance of health guidelines to make sure students' health is guaranteed."

"If the protocols are followed accurately and completely, and God willing, the vaccination process accelerates, the most serious causes of the disease can be easily dealt with."


May 8, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force

"No one should use this virus as a political tool for partisan, factional, and electoral purposes."

"Based on the measures taken to purchase the vaccine, we have high hopes that the vaccination of priority groups of the elderly and those with underlying conditions will be completed by the end of the Twelfth Government."

"The mutated types of coronavirus should not confuse the public mind and should not cause additional concern."

"The domestic vaccine will be ready for use in the general vaccination program from the beginning of summer."

"Coronavirus has shown that there are still viruses capable of creating a pandemic, and the mutation and persistence of this virus in the last 16 months has necessitated efforts to achieve the ability to make vaccines for it domestically."

"Of course, those who receive the vaccine should know that they are the only ones who are immune and may transmit the disease to others."


May 8, 2021, at a meeting with health ministry officials and vaccine producers

"We very much hope that by June, vaccines purchased from COVAX and other countries will enter the country."

"The domestic vaccines will also be available. According to reports, the Co-Pasteur vaccine will be available in late May, and the Barakat vaccine will be available in June."


May 9, 2021, at a meeting of the Cabinet's Economic Coordination Board

"Although the path of preparing and supplying the vaccine is not very smooth and easy, but despite the restrictions that exist in this regard in the world and also due to sanctions and restrictions on allocating foreign exchange resources, considering the efforts and measures taken, we can hope that the supply and import of vaccines will reach a definite procedure with the desired speed so that there are no inconsistencies and obstacles in this direction."

"The priority of the government's policy is to create domestic production capacity in the field of vaccines, but in terms of time to reach the point of adequate domestic supply, time should not be lost to save lives and the country's needs should be met by importing vaccines."

"According to the plan of the Ministry of Health, by July, 13 million people in the high-risk groups will be vaccinated."

"The disease itself is a pervasive and global thing and no country is immune from its damage, but the economic pressure of this disease on our country and nation has been much greater and double because Iran has fought the disease in the most difficult and inhumane economic war in the world."


May 29, 2021, at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Task Force

"If the observance of protocols in the community does not reach 90 percent, the risk of facing a new wave of disease and its problems will be higher."

"We ask the people to refrain from traveling between the provinces and to endure these conditions well so that we can reach the end of the month and the days of the elections without any problem."

"We hope that the domestic vaccine will enter the market soon, and in this case we will see better conditions in July."

"If enough vaccines are produced domestically and we buy the required vaccine at the same time, we can start the public vaccination in August and end it until December."

"About 878 bases have been allocated for public vaccination, and in 24 hours, more than 200,000 people will receive the vaccine, and it is possible to increase it to 500,000 people."


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.”


Mar. 30, 2020, 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.”


Sept. 24, 2020, at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) virtual event:

"To meet the special challenges of our time, we need to solidify our cooperation within the framework of CICA. We need to secure a pivotal role for the organization, to advance multilateralism, and to ensure inclusive collaboration. It is imperative for us to pool our resources to jointly tackle the enormous challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"First and foremost, we all need to embrace multilateralism and reject unilateralism in addressing a global challenge of this magnitude; one that has defied all geographical, political and socio-economic divisions.

"As CICA members, we should strive to strengthen cooperation within the framework of our organization—in coordination with the UN and WHO—to ensure full, free and fair access to health services, medicine, and medical equipment for our peoples. We must also act to ensure that no one can arbitrarily challenge professional international organizations.

"We must collectively emphasize the need for industrialized economies to assist developing countries in the transfer of medical technology and equipment. And we must urge international economic institutions—as well as wealthy countries—to provide other nations and relevant international and regional organizations with necessary financial assistance in their campaigns against the pandemic.

"As inheritors of great Asian civilizations, we should always encourage a people-first approach, putting saving human lives and human dignity above all else, and reject any politicization of the pandemic.

"We need to jointly confront the destructive impact of unilateral coercive measures on efforts to combat the pandemic. They are nothing but economic and medical terrorism, and we must refuse to comply with these unlawful measures in our collective endeavor to tackle this common affliction of humanity.

"The only way to overcome common challenges that threaten the health and security of our nations is to work together to find common solutions that effectively and decisively address the sources of the threats.  My country stands ready to join our friends and neighbors in CICA and exchange knowledge and expertise in this collective mission.

"We need humility and multilateral cooperation to grapple with a microscopic enemy that has brought major powers to their knee—without deference to their military might, economic wealth and propaganda machines."



Mar. 15, 2021 in a statement reported by Iranian state media:

“If one country becomes vulnerable to the threat of corona pandemic, the entirety of the international community will suffer from the same vulnerability."

“We cannot buy security for ourselves at the cost of making others insecure. We cannot build a future for ourselves by putting pressure on others. I wish COVID-19 would at least teach us this lesson to understand that in an interconnected world, we are all boarding the same boat.”


Mar. 17, 2021, in an interview with Politico:

"We started vaccinating the population a couple of weeks ago, started with health professionals, and continue with medical workers and the elderly and people in the vulnerable segments of the population. Unfortunately sanctions by the U.S., whether they admit it or not, have prevented Iran from making its payments into Covax. It delayed our payments into this global facility for vaccines by about four months. We finally did it in January, but that delayed the process.

"Right now, our medical community, the equivalent of your FDA, has agreed on an emergency basis to accept the Sputnik vaccine and the Sinopharm vaccine, and Sinovac is in the process of being approved. We have three Iranian vaccines undergoing second- and third-phase trials. The vaccine co-produced between our Pasteur Institute, a 100-year-old vaccine production facility in Iran, and Cuban pharmaceuticals is now ready for its final trial phase and hopefully mass-vaccination.

"It is regrettable that the West is hoarding vaccines, and it’s an issue in the international community while during this pandemic, countries outside the West are hardly having access to any vaccine. This pandemic has to be addressed globally; you cannot address it locally, and unfortunately, just like in other cases, the West doesn’t see it that way."


May 12, 2021, foreign ministry readout of Zarif's trip to Syria:

"The Iranian Foreign Minister also expressed pleasure with the Syrian government's accomplishments in resisting the US' economic terrorism and its anti-Syria sanctions, and said, 'Unfortunately this terrorism has spread to the medical sphere today, and is depriving the Iranian and Syrian people of COVID-19 vaccine.'"


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 we see the trend, the main peak of the disease will be in the next week and coming days.”


Mar. 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.” 


Oct. 20, 2020 remarks to media:

“Everyone should know that I, as health minister, cannot bring this epidemic situation under control alone, and a lot more (help) is required."

“It was announced that anyone without a mask would be fined, but I saw...that 40% of the people on the bus did not wear masks. Can an infection be controlled in this way?”


Jan. 24, 2021, at a press conference:

“The new virus is not restricted to Europe and can spread in any climate, even if we control all the ways.” 


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.”


Apr. 13, 2020, in a press conference:

“In six provinces, the trend of coronavirus infections has had an upward movement and in some provinces, including Isfahan, it has not increased or decreased significantly and has almost flattened.”

“The first strategy is to maximize smart social distancing. This means people still need to remain at home and avoid any unnecessary trips, visits and shopping.”

“Identifying the infected but asymptomatic patients is the second strategy. Eighty percent of infected people have either little or no symptoms. These individuals can spread the virus in the society and our efforts are aimed at identifying them in the early stages.”

“The third strategy is to identify and isolate people who have been in contact with either patients or asymptomatic carriers. This step is being experimented in Zanjan province and will be extended to other provinces.”


September 18, in an interview on state television:

“The color classification doesn’t make sense anymore. We no longer have orange and yellow. The entire country is red."

“If the current course continues, the death toll will reach 45,000."


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


Remarks at the United Nations on Feb. 18, 2021:

“In order to prevent more severe consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, including loss of the progress already made in fighting against poverty and the intensification of inequality within and between countries, there is no other option but to achieve success in containing the virus."


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.”


Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh

Nov. 12, 2020, at a gas exporter conference:

“The U.S. sanctions and depriving Iran of [its] hydrocarbon revenues has caused the country to face problems in handling the new coronavirus [pandemic]... Therefore, I believe that the U.S. administration is responsible for the deaths of [over] 400 Iranian people every day due to the coronavirus pandemic."



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


Some of the information in this article was originally published on February 28, 2020.