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MSF Surprised at Iran’s Decision to Reject Aid as Official Deems it ‘Unnecessary’

MSF Surprised at Iran’s Decision to Reject Aid as Official Deems it ‘Unnecessary’

Tuesday, 24 March, 2020 - 10:00
Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus, as they walk in the street in Tehran, Iran February 25, 2020. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

French medical charity MSF said on Tuesday it did not understand a decision by Iranian authorities to cancel a mission it had prearranged to set up a facility to fight coronavirus in Isfahan.

"We are surprised to learn that the deployment of our treatment unity is cancelled", Michel-Olivier Lacharite, who is in charge of Medecins Sans Frontieres crisis response team, said in a statement.

He said the group had been given prior approval and were ready to set up the 50-bed unit at the end of the week. He said they were still ready to deploy on Iran or elsewhere on the region.

Earlier, a senior Iranian official Tuesday ruled out "foreign" help on the ground to deal with the coronavirus epidemic in wake of the MSF’s offer, as the country's death toll from the illness neared 2,000.

"Due to Iran's national mobilization against the virus and the full use of the medical capacity of the armed forces, it is not necessary for now for hospital beds to be set up by foreign forces, and their presence is ruled out," Alireza Vahabzadeh, advisor to Iran's health minister, said on Twitter.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour earlier said a record 1,762 new cases have been confirmed in Iran over the past 24 hours and 24,811 people are now known to have been infected with the new coronavirus.

He announced 122 new deaths from the virus, raising the official toll to 1,934 in one of the world's worst hit countries. The dead included the mother-in-law of the son of supreme leader Ali Khamenei, the state-run IRNA news agency said.

Iran has the fourth highest official death toll from the coronavirus after Italy, China and Spain but, unlike those countries, it has yet to impose any lockdown on its citizens.

Despite the authorities' appeals for people to stay home and the closure of shopping and leisure centers, many people have taken to the roads as usual this year.

Jahanpour, however, announced that when government offices reopen on Tuesday, many civil servants will be working from home.

"Only around a third of government staff are authorized to work in the office and only for administrative tasks vital to the public," he said, adding that all offices would practice "social distancing".

Adding to Iran's woes, floods caused by heavy rainfall since Sunday, mainly in western provinces, have killed at least 12 people and left two others missing, a spokesman for Iran's rescue services told AFP.

Mojtaba Khaledi said that warnings have been issued of more heavy rains for later this week in western Iran.

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