News Digest: Week of July 27

July 27

Health: Iran reported 293,606 cases and 15,912 deaths from COVID-19. Iranian state media announced that government spokesman Ali Rabiei had tested positive for COVID-19. Rabiei had reportedly been hospitalized but was in good condition, according to Mehr news agency.

Economy: The Swiss government announced that a Swiss pharmaceutical company had conducted the first deal with Iran using the new Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) channel. “We would like to emphasise that the operationalisation of the SHTA is progressing and that a number of companies have already been approved, more companies will follow. Further transactions should be carried out shortly,” the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs told Reuters. The deal reportedly involved a shipment of cancer drugs to Iran. The SHTA was a joint U.S. and Swiss effort to facilitate the flow of humanitarian goods to the Iranian people and safeguard against diversion by the regime.

Justice: Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges, was transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Qarchak Prison, an isolated and overcrowded prison east of the city. “I can’t eat anything. I feel so very hopeless… I am so depressed,” Moore-Gilbert said in a recording heard by The Guardian. The Australian government said that it would hold Tehran responsible for Moore-Gilbert’s safety and was “urgently seeking further consular access to her at this new location.”


July 28

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health recorded 296,273 COVID-19 infections, including 16,147 deaths. Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said that the national university entrance exam would be held as scheduled, despite calls from some officials to postpone the test for a second time. “Students suspected to have the virus will take the test in a separate location. There will be a 1.8 to 2-meter (6.5 feet) distance between candidates,” Harirchi announced in a press conference.

Military: Iran ran a mock attack on a fake U.S. aircraft carrier during a wargame in the Persian Gulf. In the military exercise, Revolutionary Guards commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the vessel, which was 650 feet long, about 300 feet shorter than a real U.S. aircraft carrier. Iran also demonstrated other capabilities, including launching ballistic missiles from an underground base. U.S. Central Command condemned the wargame as “irresponsible and reckless.” The United States responded to the exercise by putting two bases – al Udeid in Qatar and al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi – on temporary alert.


July 29

Health: Iran reported 298,909 cases and 16,343 deaths from COVID-19. Health Ministry Spokesperson Sima Lari said that 259,116 Iranians had recovered from the virus.