Iran offers to help 'incapable' US contain coronavirus outbreak

Iran offers to help 'incapable' US contain coronavirus outbreak
Iran said it was ready to help US deal with its COVID-19 outbreak in return for lifting sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic.
2 min read
20 March, 2020
Qom has been at the centre of Iran's COVID-19 outbreak [Getty]

Iran's Deputy Health Minister Ali-Reza Raeesi said the country was ready to help the US get its coronavirus outbreak under control, advising Washington to strengthen its healthcare system if it wants to successfully tackle the virus, according to state news agency IRNA.

Raeesi also encouraged Washington to remove its crippling sanctions on Tehran, if it was serious about wanting to help Iran, which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had claimed during a press conference on Thursday.

The deputy minister added that it would have been preferable for an American medical official to have made the claim, as Pompeo is "no expert in healthcare matters" IRNA reported.

Raeesi added that the US health system is "incapable" of controlling COVID19 pandemic, accusing President Donald Trump of withholding information on the outbreak to the public.

COVID-19 has hit Iran especially hard, with 18,407 confirmed cases and 1,284 deaths.

The government has been particularly affected, with a number of senior politicians and officials killed or infected by the disease including a vice president, a senior adviser to the foreign minister and a powerful cleric.

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However official tolls, which are given every 24 hours by the health ministry, have often lagged behind reports by local media and have sometimes been contradicted by provincial authorities.

Provincial medical universities have at times reported higher fatalities than officially reported, but those have been disputed as being "severe respiratory illnesses" rather than directly caused by the coronavirus.

Iran also accuses US sanctions of impairing its medical and healthcare capabilities in fighting the virus, but observers have also noted that the government was sluggish to address the initial outbreak in the city of Qom.

Despite imposing containment measures such as closing schools, universities and pilgrimage sites, the government is yet to force a full lockdown, which some analysts say is due to the economy being so weak.

Meanwhile the US has been battling its own rapid spread of the disease, with 14,250 confirmed cases since the first infection was confirmed in Washington state in January.

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