Iran's deputy health minister: I have coronavirus

Feverish Iraj Harirchi says disease ‘doesn’t distinguish between statesman and ordinary citizen’

Iran’s deputy health minister said he has contracted the coronavirus and placed himself in isolation, a day after appearing feverish at a press conference in which he downplayed its spread in the shrine city of Qom and said mass quarantines were unnecessary.

Iraj Harirchi posted a video on social media on Tuesday acknowledging he had caught the virus, which appears to be taking rapid hold in parts of Iran. The news has underscored widespread fears that the outbreak may have passed a tipping point, before authorities had been able to gauge its full extent.

Images of one of the country’s most senior public health officials appearing sweaty and pale and acknowledging he had contracted the disease left many Iranians deeply troubled and are likely to further paralyse a county reeling from its rapid onset. In the short video, Hirachi acknowledged that “many may get infected” echoing concerns that have taken root in the rest of the Middle East, which is home to millions of people living in densely packed refugee camps.

“I wanted to tell you that I got corona,” said Harirchi. “I had a fever yesterday. The tests came back positive last night. I isolated myself. Just a few moments ago, I was told that the final test came. I’ll start taking medicine. Generally, I feel fine. I just felt a bit tired, I had a fever, and it will drop.

“Be sure with the effort of the medical staff and ministry of health headed by the [health minister] and with your support and the state and military within the coming weeks, we’ll be victorious against this virus.

“We’ll defeat corona. Be assured. I’m saying this deep from my heart. This virus is democratic, and it doesn’t distinguish between poor and rich or statesman and an ordinary citizen.

“Many might get infected, but we have enough effective medicine, take care of yourselves. Take care of the nurses and doctors who work heroically.”

This is #Iran’s deputy health minister, who we now know has #coronavirus, giving an interview about #COVID19 on state TV last night. The anchor says to him “you are coughing” he says “maybe I should cover my mouth like this”

— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) February 25, 2020

Iran has become the regional focal point of fears surrounding coronavirus. Neighbouring states have largely shut their borders and suspended pilgrimage routes. Schools and universities in many parts of the country have been closed. Four new cases were suspected to have been diagnosed in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Tuesday. If confirmed, it would take the national tally to five cases, a number that is widely expected to rise, possibly substantially, in the coming days. Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman also reported their first new coronavirus cases, all in people who had been to Iran.

Meanwhile, Turkey diverted a plane from Tehran, which had been destined for Istanbul, to its capital Ankara, after 17 passengers were reported to have higher than average temperatures.

Additional reporting: Mohammed Rasool


Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Coronavirus: a disease that thrives on human error
When it comes to containing the outbreak, small mistakes will have big consequences for our health

Peter Beaumont in London, Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo and Kim Willsher in Paris

07, Mar, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Coronavirus in a war zone: Afghanistan braces for outbreak after first case
Lone Kabul laboratory preparing to treat patients in the midst of political turmoil and tentative peace talks, as border with Iran closed

Stefanie Glinski in Kabul

26, Feb, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
Coronavirus distancing may need to continue until 2022, say experts
Scientists say one-time lockdown will not bring pandemic under control

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent

14, Apr, 2020 @6:44 PM

Article image
Ban wildlife markets to avert pandemics, says UN biodiversity chief
Warning comes as destruction of nature increasingly seen as key driver of zoonotic diseases

Patrick Greenfield

06, Apr, 2020 @4:00 AM

Article image
Italy’s large elderly population bearing brunt of coronavirus
Many have underlying conditions, making fight against Covid-19 more complex

Lorenzo Tondo and Angela Giuffrida

03, Mar, 2020 @5:38 PM

Article image
Wuhan residents brave queues as coronavirus mass testing begins
Locals report confusion and lengthy waits as officials aim to test 11m residents in 10 days

Helen Davidson

15, May, 2020 @8:50 AM

Article image
Coronavirus: April will be 'second dose month', says UK vaccines minister
Nadhim Zahawi hails milestone of 30m first doses and says UK still on track to protect all adults by July

Dan Sabbagh and Andrew Sparrow

28, Mar, 2021 @7:13 PM

Article image
China virus: ten cities locked down and Beijing festivities scrapped
Residents in affected cities hoard supplies and isolate themselves at home

Lily Kuo in Beijing and agencies

24, Jan, 2020 @1:05 AM

Article image
Turkey and Pakistan close borders with Iran over coronavirus deaths
Ankara also suspends incoming flights as Iranian authorities try to contain outbreak in country

Patrick Wintour in Tehran

23, Feb, 2020 @3:07 PM

Article image
US germ warfare research leads to new early Covid-19 test
Exclusive: test has potential to identify carriers before they become infectious

Giles Tremlett

01, May, 2020 @3:00 PM