Iran’s Ministry of Health has roundly rejected US claims that it has enabled the establishment of a sanctions-free channel for the transfer of medicine to the Islamic Republic.
“The US holds the world record in lying,” Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi told a news conference via video-link on Monday. “Their claim about the existence of a channel for the transfer of medicinal items is false,” he added.
The official noted that under circumstances wherein thousands of people are losing their lives around the world due to the new coronavirus pandemic every day, keeping a country under sanctions “lacks any justification.”
Iran has won a case against the US at the International Court of Justice that obliges Washington to exempt food and medicine from the sanctions it illegally and unilaterally reimposed in 2018. The US government alleges that it has spared those items, a claim that Tehran dismisses as untrue.
President Hassan Rouhani
Raeisi explained that the sanctions were also preventing the country from using its own overseas’ assets towards battling the virus and prohibiting foreign-based Iranians from sending aid to the Islamic Republic.
He, however, hailed Iran’s performance in the face of the outbreak given that the country had earmarked only around $1 billion for battling the virus, compared to the roughly $114 billion that the United States has set aside for fighting the pandemic.
More than 284,100 people have died worldwide, including 6,685 in Iran, from the novel virus that first emerged in central China late last year.
The official said thanks to public observance of relevant health protocols, the closure of schools and universities as well as a reduction in urban and inter-urban travels, there has been a “favorable decline” in the disease curve.
So far, 90 percent of the population or around 78 million people have been screened for infection symptoms, he reported, adding that the deployment of as many as 400 outpatient diagnosis facilities has remarkably eased pressure on hospitals amid the outbreak.
Most provinces have put the spread’s peak behind, he announced. In the southern Khuzestan Province, however, where health protocols have not been employed as efficiently as they should be, officials have begun reintroducing stringent measures aimed at fighting back the spread, Raeisi said.
According to the official, health protocols have been defined for as many as 130,000 professions, while authorities have either closed down or issued caveats for 210,000 businesses, which were found in violation of preventive measures.
Raeisi, meanwhile, warned that the outbreak could rebound and reverse the country’s achievements if the public assumed that conditions had already normalized, adding there were still no “risk-free” areas across the country.
Reopening considerations schools, religious centers
Later on Monday, officials were to announce the circumstances governing the reopening of mosques, he said, noting that attendance at religious centers was contingent on the strict observance of precautions, distancing as well as the use of hand gloves, facemasks, and personal praying items.
On Wednesday, he added, a session that was to be convened at the Interior Ministry would address potential reopening of Imam Reza (PBUH)’s Shrine in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.
Separately, Ali Rabiei, spokesman for the Iranian Administration, announced that officials had decided to reopen schools as of May 16.
However, school attendance was by no means mandatory, and students were expected to show up at will and at their parents’ discretion for remedial sessions with their teachers.
Next week, he said, officials would make decisions about the reopening of universities.
The country is now conducting as many as 30,000 diagnostic tests on people every day, Rabiei said, noting that plans were underway for the number of the tests to reach 1.5 million so the screening process would be completed nationwide.
He noted that the curves pertaining to the number of daily fatalities and virus-related outpatient visits were experiencing a mild downward trend countrywide.