Iran Health Minister: Regime’s Coronavirus Response ‘Embarrassing’

In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, a medic wearing protective gear treats a patient infected with the new coronavirus, at Baqiyatallah Al'Azam Hospital affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard, in Tehran, Iran. Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn't kill those …
Mohammad Hasan Zarifmanesh/Tasnim News Agency via AP

Iran’s health minister lashed out at his country’s top officials on Wednesday, accusing them of “losing control” of Iran’s devastating coronavirus outbreak, believed to be one of the deadliest in the world, Radio Farda reported.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of Iran’s Coronavirus Headquarters in Tehran, Health Minister Saeed Namaki admonished government officials for their mishandling of the national epidemic, accusing them of “negligence” and “having no economic plan.” In comments directed toward Iran’s president and intelligence agents, Namaki said they should “think about people’s livelihoods and how to prevent an insurrection,” as Iranians grow “frustrated and exhausted” under the crippling economic hardship of both U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus recession.

Namaki said that under U.S. sanctions, the “treasury” of the Iranian government has become “empty and destitute.” Continuing to imply that the country’s economic hardship will cause distressed citizens to lash out at the government, Namaki blamed Iranian economists for failing to help officials devise a plan of action under the pandemic constraints.

“Economists should have given me a solution not to have an uprising caused by hunger and poverty,” he lamented.

On Tuesday, Namaki said that “a significant number of people” in Iran had failed to take seriously the official virus prevention advice the government issued. He added that this had caused a “new wave” of coronavirus infections in Iran’s “very important” border provinces, “embarrassing us [government leaders].”

Namaki called out Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for his dismissal of coronavirus precautions, specifically referencing his insistence in March that Iran conduct “business as usual” in the face of the virus. Namaki then sarcastically stated that “since the government is unable to provide financial support for a street vendor, a taxi driver, or a shopkeeper,” the health ministry had been forced to stop opposing the reopening of the Iranian economy.

He bitterly described Iran’s ever-increasing number of coronavirus deaths and the possibility for insurrection as the government’s “penalty” for dismissing the coronavirus pandemic as a “joke.”

“This country’s president must think about the people’s livelihood. This country’s administration, the security forces, the law enforcement, and the military forces must think about the livelihood and how to prevent an insurrection,” Namaki said.

At press time on Thursday, Iran’s official coronavirus numbers stood at 250,458 cases and 12,305 deaths, although global health authorities have doubted Iran’s virus data from the start of the country’s outbreak early this year. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a dissident group, more than 68,100 people in Iran have died from the Chinese coronavirus as of Thursday.

Iran’s Health Ministry has repeatedly cast doubt on Iran’s officially reported coronavirus numbers. In March, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said Iran was recording a new coronavirus death every ten minutes.

“Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Jahanpur wrote on Twitter.

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