Iran: 123 New Coronavirus Deaths, Rouhani Says It’s Not Time For ‘Politcal War’

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

People wearing protective masks wait along the side of a street in the Iranian capital Tehran.
People wearing protective masks wait along the side of a street in the Iranian capital Tehran on February 24, 2020 (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani lashed out Sunday at criticism of the country’s response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, saying he had to weigh protecting the economy while tackling the pandemic.

He said the government had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran’s beleaguered economy, which is under heavy US sanctions.

“Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us,” Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting, stressing that this is not the time “to gather followers.”

“This is not a time for political war,” he added.

Even before the pandemic, Rouhani was under fire for the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear deal he concluded with the US and other world powers, according to The Associated Press.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran that prevent it from selling oil on international markets.

Iran has urged the international community to lift sanctions and is seeking a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The country’s death toll from the new coronavirus has risen to 2,640 and the number of infected people has reached 38,309, a health ministry official tweeted on Sunday.

“In the past 24 hours we had 123 deaths and 2,901 people have been infected, bringing the total number of infected people to 38,309,” tweeted Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister.

“12,391 people infected from the virus have recovered,” he added, Reuters reported.

Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV that “some 3,467 of those infected are in critical condition”.

In recent days, Iran has ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns.

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