Tehran cracks down on hoarding as coronavirus panics Iranians

As Iran continues to fight the coronavirus outbreak, officials vow strong action against the hoarding of medical supplies.

al-monitor An Iranian man wears a protective mask to avoid contracting the coronavirus, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 29, 2020.  Photo by WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via REUTERS.

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medical logistics, epidemics, outbreak, public health, health care, iranian politics, iran economy, coronavirus

Mar 2, 2020

The Iranian authorities continue to update the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak across the country. According to officials, in the last 24 hours there have been 523 new cases and 12 deaths. So far there has been a total of 1,500 verified cases, 66 deaths and 291 recoveries. The hardest hit provinces are Tehran, Qom and Gilan.

Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said that 22 testing centers have been set up across the country. He said that high numbers of individuals afraid they have the virus are visiting hospitals across the country but that 80% of those infected just need rest and do not need special medical treatment.

During a video press conference today, spokesman for the administration Ali Rabei said that schools will remained closed this week and that a decision on next week will be made soon.

A number of Iranian authorities have vowed strong action against hoarding medical supplies and price gouging. Attorney General Mohammad Jaffar Montazeri asked the Health Ministry to prosecute anyone hoarding medical supplies or disrupting their availability to health care professionals. Montazeri said offenses that hinder efforts to combat the coronavirus would be charged with “corruption on Earth,” a crime that carries the death penalty in Iran. Head of the judiciary Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi told prosecutors across the country to “show no mercy to those hoarding medical supplies and medicine.”

The statements came after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' intelligence agents discovered a storage unit full of medical supplies in Tehran. According to their statement, the storage unit contained masks, gloves and other medical equipment worth up to $2 million. The IRGC also announced it has formed a task force to fight the coronavirus. The statement said that the IRGC group as well as the Basij Organization will be mobilized until “complete dominance” is established over the virus and a “return to normal circumstances.” Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi also asked the Intelligence Ministry to take action against those who are hoarding or price gouging on medical supplies.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi responded today to a US offer of help to fight the coronavirus. President Donald Trump has offered short-term sanctions relief and Secretary of State Pompeo said the United States has offered Iran “humanitarian assistance.” In another video press conference, Mousavi said, “If they had good intentions, they would not have propagandized it.” Mousavi continued, “We are suspicious of America’s help and in previous situations we have seen them not do anything other than making noise. We don’t need their verbal support.” Mousavi added that he has not seen any messages from the United States and doubts Iran will need US help in fighting the virus.

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