Hassan Rouhani: Iran to Make Thousands of Dubious, Homemade Coronavirus Testing Kits

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a trilateral meeting on Syria with his Russian and Turkish counterparts in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 14, 2019. (Photo by Sergei CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images

The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, announced on Wednesday that the country is preparing to manufacture “hundreds of thousands” of an Iranian version of the testing kit to confirm cases of Chinese coronavirus.

Iran claimed this week to have invented a new testing kit independent of China, where the virus originated, that it has been using to confirm if individuals with symptoms of viral infection are indeed carrying it. The Wuhan coronavirus causes symptoms shared by infections of several other coronaviruses, including the common cold and SARS: difficulty breathing, coughing, and fever, among others.

At press time, neither Iran nor the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that the WHO has studied, tested, and approved the new testing kit. There is no evidence that independent doctors from other countries have tested it, either.

Iran has come under scrutiny after revealed last week that it had documented several coronavirus cases. Iranian officials have not clarified if they have identified the first person to import the virus from China. An Iranian lawmaker accused the government of lying about the number of cases and masking dozens of deaths. The official in charge of coronavirus response, who insisted early this week that the situation was under control, is now quarantined at home after testing positive for the virus.

Rouhani nonetheless insisted on Wednesday that the situation was not only under control, but that Iran had made significant scientific advances in the fight against coronavirus in the last week.

Rouhani applauded Iranian scientists for making “positive and credible” testing kits and promised to mass produce them in the near future.

“Shortly, we will be able to make hundreds of thousands and even millions of these kits, and place them at the disposal of all of the country’s hospitals” he said. He did not specify if the kits would eventually be exported to nations who now have coronavirus cases thanks to Iranian travelers, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rouhani’s remarks followed comments by a government spokesman on Tuesday announcing that Iran was prepared to domestically manufacture the sanitary and hygienic equipment necessary to contain the virus.

“Given the proper capabilities and technology of our producers, certainly, we enjoy the power to meet the country’s needs and we can even produce more than the country’s needs,” the spokesman insisted, citing conversations with Iran’s major manufacturers of hospital equipment. He claimed that Iran had shipped 700,000 sanitary packs nationwide already. Experts have recommended widespread use of sanitary masks in public and, in hospitals, extensive disinfectants and protective gear for health professionals, who are the most vulnerable to catch the infection.

Rouhani, state media reported, emphasized the need for Iranians not to change their work patterns or behave irregularly. While prohibiting “unnecessary gatherings,” Rouhani vowed “no lockdowns” in the manner that China has implemented them, in which millions of people in entire cities cannot leave their homes save for an occasional, government-approved visit to a local grocer for basic food supplies.

“At schools, high schools, universities and workplaces, everyone should pay attention to health recommendations, but we must all continue our work and activities,” Rouhani insisted.

Rouhani said that Iran would “return to normal on Saturday,” without specifying why he expected the outbreak to be over so soon and so definitively. That assertion followed a declaration by Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki on Tuesday that the number of documented coronavirus cases in Qom, where the first coronavirus cases were initially confirmed, was growing. Namaki also said that the “number of patients discharged has increased,” suggesting that many are recovering swiftly. While the WHO documents “recovered” coronavirus cases, there is no guaranteed that those identified as such are not contagious or will not relapse. In China, Wuhan officials have been forced to re-quarantine individuals previously declared “cured.”

Rouhani then shifted gears to attacking the United States for enduring regular seasons of influenza infections.

The president “said that the U.S. and other enemies have been attempting over the past 21 months to halt economic activities in Iran and make the people suffer through sanctions and propaganda campaigns,” according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, which quoted Rouhani as saying that Washington is seeking to turn coronavirus into a “weapon for the enemies.”

Condemning the United States, Rouhani said, “They themselves are afflicted with the coronavirus over there. They themselves lost 16,000 people to the flu, but do not make any references to it.”

Like in China, where state propaganda outlets have repeatedly denounced alleged American “racism” in handling coronavirus, Iranian state media has also claimed that there is a “malignant” campaign to smear Iran as irresponsible in handling the outbreak.

“But a lot of negative coverage has been singularly directed at Iran. Foreign media is attempting to portray Iran’s fight against the coronavirus as wavering, even picturing the apocalypse in those attempts,” a column at the government outlet PressTV read. “That is a very novel form of propagating a phobia of Iran. In the past, Iran has been depicted as part of ‘the axis of evil,’ ‘the world’s chief state sponsor of terror,’ and ‘a pariah state with nuclear ambitions.'”

Rouhani made his remarks at the newly minted National Headquarters to Fight against Coronavirus, where he is the head of the official task force to fight the virus. Rouhani replaced Iraj Harirchi, a deputy Health Ministry officials who appeared on television this week insisting the situation was under control shortly before announcing he himself at become infected with the virus.

At press time, Iran claims to have confirmed 139 coronavirus cases and 19 virus-related deaths.

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