Iran's Zarif says fighting COVID-19 a global effort

Iran warns the combination of US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic makes global cooperation imperative to fighting the virus in Iran.

al-monitor Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 29, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.

Mar 30, 2020

As Iran continues to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus, government officials are warning about the toll sanctions are taking and asking other countries to either ignore US sanctions or work with Iran to help combat the virus. 

Leading the way on the campaign to demonstrate the effects of US sanctions on Iran has been Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In his latest Telegram post March 30, Zarif wrote, “These days the world is combatting a common challenge. In order for the world to return to life as previously, we must believe that the entire planet is a battlefield and anywhere we fail the whole world fails.”

Zarif added, “The world is indebted to everyone’s efforts, whether in Wuhan, Tehran, Milan, Madrid or New York, and every bitter news and every horrific image of the death of people demands the mourning of the whole world.”

On the impact of sanctions, Zarif said, “Iran is the only country in the world that does not have access to all of its resources in order to protect its citizens [and] cannot buy equipment and medical supplies easily. The combination of sanctions and the coronavirus makes it a more dangerous and terrible complication. Sanctions make the coronavirus more resilient and the decisions to manage the crisis more difficult.”

“The world requires a moral will to defy the excessive demands of the United States. We must not allow sanctions and the heeding of sanctions to add more to these war crimes," Zarif said.

Last month, the US Treasury Department issued an exemption allowing for trade in humanitarian goods through Iran’s Central Bank.

According to Iran’s Health Ministry, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases is now 41,495, with 2,757 deaths. In the last 24 hours, there have been 3,186 new cases and 117 deaths. Tehran continues to lead the way in both infections and deaths. Alireza Zaali, head of the Iranian headquarters for combatting the coronavirus, said March 29 half of Tehran’s residents have not taken seriously the Health Ministry’s warnings about social distancing and staying home. 

Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki said March 30 they have screened over 61 million people — over 51 million of them over the phone. Of the individuals screened, over 218,000 were designated for follow-ups and 93,000 of those individuals received in-home treatment. Over 16,000 were hospitalized, and over 5,000 have remained in the hospital. 

Spokesman for the Hassan Rouhani administration Ali Rabiei also addressed the government’s response to the coronavirus and warned the country would be dealing with the outbreak “for some time.” Rabiei also said they currently have 13,000 extra hospital beds in the country, mostly through the help of the armed forces.

“The Americans have claimed that sanctions do not affect our access to medicine. This claim is baseless. Because of US sanctions, we cannot conduct banking transactions. In order to purchase medicine and equipment, we cannot conduct banking transactions even with our own money," said Rabiei when asked about US sanctions.

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