Iran says it is exporting coronavirus diagnostic kits

Iran announced the export of its first batch of domestically produced coronavirus diagnostic tests to Germany, saying it is receiving similar orders from other nations plagued by the pandemic.

al-monitor A man wears a face mask and face shield to protect against COVID-19 as he checks a woman's temperature before letting her enter a mall after shopping centers and bazaars reopened in Tehran, Iran, April 20, 2020.  Photo by WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS.

May 6, 2020

Expressions of patriotic praise filled several Iranian media outlets May 6 after the country said its first cargo of 40,000 indigenous COVID-19 testing kits had been exported to Germany. According to the Iranian vice president for science and technology, Sorena Sattari, the delivery was proof that Iran has reached a state of self-sufficiency for the domestic procurement of those kits. He also pushed the bar higher: Millions of such kits are planned to be sent overseas. 

The kits were developed by Pishtaz Teb Diagnostics, a company that has been focused on laboratory research and medical diagnosis tools since 1988. The company’s website doesn’t specify its affiliation and funding sources.

Already approved by Iran’s Health Ministry, another batch of the same kits are also expected to reach Turkey soon. Company officials have spoken of similar orders placed by a host of other countries, including Spain and Brazil.

Javan, a hard-line paper affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), took pride in how Iranian kits had now reached “the heart of Europe’s most medically advanced nation,” Germany. “While the coronavirus crisis has grounded the biggest medical powers, Iranian experts have not only supplied the demand at home but are now finding clients abroad in Europe,” the paper wrote.

During the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, government officials complained that a shortage of medical supplies, including diagnostic kits, was hampering the containment process. They blamed such “medical terrorism” on sanctions and banking restrictions imposed by the United States, a charge that Washington denies, saying Iran’s medical sector has been exempted from punitive measures.

The diagnostic kit was the latest in a series of scientific achievements Iran has recently claimed. Officials say another lab is on the edge of the mass production of ventilators, a portion of which would be exported in a few months. Health Ministry spokesman Alireza Jahanpour told a virtual press conference that Iran is currently West Asia’s largest producer of masks, hospital gowns and other protective gear to be used against biological threats. 

But Iran’s achievements have not been void of controversy. Last month, the IRGC unveiled a device it claimed to be capable of detecting humans and surfaces infected by the coronavirus. Iran’s Drug and Food Authority, however, came out in quick rejection of the device, saying such tools have not been put to its laboratory tests. Even Hesameddin Ashena, who serves as President Hassan Rouhani’s media adviser, criticized the IRGC for disseminating “odd news” by promoting a device that has not been officially approved by the Health Ministry.

As of May 6, Iran’s confirmed cases stood above 101,000, with a recovery rate of 80%.

However, in the latest of statements from Iranian officials contradicting one another, the director of the pandemic response department at the Health Ministry, Hossein Erfani, indirectly dismissed Rouhani’s support for the notion of herd immunity in Iran. “Any assumption among the public that some herd immunity has been gained and we can now return to normal life is but a fallacy,” the senior epidemiologist said.

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