Iran points to China as source of its coronavirus woes

Iran points to China as source of its coronavirus woes

Top Stories | Mar 18, 2020:


A sobering message from Iran’s health minister could raise doubts about the wisdom of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) efforts to restart the country’s flagging economy by rallying people to return to work amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Saeed Namaki told Iran state TV that the China-originated virus,  named COVID-19, was brought into Iran by people who traveled from China, fueling concern that clusters in Iran, Italy and South Korea could signal a new stage in the global spread of the virus.

The virus in Iran was first detected in the holy city of Qom, Namaki said, adding that one of the Iranian people who died from the virus was a merchant who shuttled between the countries. The merchant in recent weeks used indirect flights after Iran stopped direct passenger flights to China, Namaki said, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Qom is a major pilgrimage destination for Shiite Muslims. “We obviously do not recommend traveling to Qom and other pilgrimage cities,” Namaki said.

His warning came as workers in China begin to emerge from quarantine after PRC President Xi Jinping urged a return to job sites. Work stoppages caused by quarantines are battering China’s first quarter economic growth and hindering fresh college graduates from getting jobs, the Chinese government reported.

Many of China’s industries are already returning to work. China’s National Development and Reform Commission said many large industries are already back on the job, according to a CNBC report.

About 67.4% of the iron and steel industry have returned, while 86.3% of the people who work in the nonferrous metals industry are back on the job.

While many Chinese employees worked from home to avoid spreading the virus, some evidence is already emerging that some returned to work too soon.

Beijing businesses, for example, were allowed to go back to work on February 10, 2020, but they were ordered to take every measure possible to prevent the spread of the disease, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported.

A government employee in the Xicheng district returned to work on February 1, 2020, however, after he had visited family in Hebei province in northern China. One of his relatives was diagnosed 10 days later with COVID-19. The worker went to the hospital and found out that he, too, was infected.

Now all 69 of his colleagues at work that day are in quarantine, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Meanwhile, leaders in Iran and around the world are trying to prevent their citizens from traveling to China as that country’s workers begin to congregate again in public.

Iran’s leader put the country’s Armed Forces on alert on March 2, 2020, to assist health officials in combating the outbreak. Iran so far has suffered the most casualties outside of China with 77 deaths as of March 3, 2020, according to AP. (Pictured: Health care workers check a man’s temperature and disinfect his hands as he enters a shopping center in northern Tehran, Iran.)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision to deploy the military was announced after state media broadcast images of the 80-year-old planting a tree wearing disposable gloves ahead of Iran’s upcoming arbor day. Iranian media also reported that 23 members of Parliament have the virus, as does the head of the country’s emergency services.

“Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good, and what helps to spread it is sin,” Khamenei said.