Iran disputes ‘exaggerated’ protest death tolls

Protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in Tehran on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 30 November 2019

Iran disputes ‘exaggerated’ protest death tolls

  • The demonstrations flared in mid-November, after the price of petrol in the Islamic republic went up overnight by as much as 200 percent
  • ‘Statistics by international organizations on those killed in the recent incidents are not credible’

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday disputed death tolls issued abroad for bloodshed that erupted during protests in the country over fuel prices, after a rights group said over 160 demonstrators were killed.
The demonstrations flared in mid-November, after the price of petrol in the Islamic republic went up overnight by as much as 200 percent.
Officials in Iran have yet to say how many people died in the ensuing violence that saw banks, petrol pumps and police stations set on fire.
London-based human rights group Amnesty International said in a tweet on Friday that the crackdown claimed the lives of 161 demonstrators.
But Iran’s deputy interior minister, Jamal Orf, disputed such figures.
“Statistics by international organizations on those killed in the recent incidents are not credible,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Orf accused the sources that reported the figures of “exaggerating” them.
The prosecution service, he added, was set to announce the figures based on those it receives from the coroner’s office.
Prior to its latest tweet, Amnesty International said on Monday that 143 demonstrators had been killed in the crackdown, citing what it called “credible reports.”
The governments of the United States, France and Germany have condemned Iran over the bloodshed.
The unrest broke out on November 15, hours after it was announced that the price of gas would rise to 15,000 rials per liter (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 liters, and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.
Iran’s economy has been battered since last year, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.
The government in Tehran said proceeds from the fuel price hike would go to the most needy people in the country.
According to IRNA, the payments have since been made in three installations between November 18 and 23.


Middle East health authorities on alert amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 26 January 2020

Middle East health authorities on alert amid coronavirus outbreak

  • King Abdullah II ordered an aircraft to be sent to evacuate Jordanian nationals from Wuhan
  • WHO representative in Egypt commends efforts taken by officials to screen incoming travelers for infection

DUBAI: Countries across the Middle East have taken swift steps to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus 2019-nCoV following an outbreak that began in China’s Hubei province.

From Jordan and Lebanon all the way to Egypt, governments are on high alert to ensure the safety of their citizens.

The infection with pneumonia-like symptoms was first detected on December 31, 2019, in Wuhan city in Hubei.

Wuhan is one of at least 10 cities placed under lockdown by Chinese authorities to control the outbreak.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II has ordered an aircraft to be sent to evacuate Jordanian nationals from the Wuhan “as soon as possible,” according to a statement.

The statement said the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, had obtained the consent of Chinese authorities for the evacuation from Wuhan.

The Jordanian embassy in Beijing said it was in contact with Chinese authorities and Jordanian nationals to complete the evacuation as soon as possible.

Earlier, John Jabbour, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Egypt, confirmed that no cases had been reported in the country.

“The Egyptian Health Ministry has taken all necessary preventive measures,” he told the state news agency on Thursday.

“We are keeping daily contact with Health Minister Hala Zayed and the ministry’s preventive-medicine sector to follow up on any developments.”

Jabbour commended the ministry’s efforts to deal with the situation by screening incoming travelers at all harbors and airports.

He said advisory preventive guidance measures have been issued to all health directorates for educating citizens about the outbreak.

The Egyptian Embassy in Beijing said on Saturday night that there were no infections among the Egyptian community in China, adding that it was monitoring conditions in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Hamad Hassan, Lebanon’s Minister of Public Health, said on Friday no 2019-nCoV cases had been reported in the country. “(There was some) concern over the spread of the H1N1 flu,” he said, adding that “there is no need to panic over the spread of this or any other disease.”

He said patients with suspected coronavirus infection will be offered treatment immediately after diagnosis free of charge, adding that the ministry’s epidemiological surveillance unit would be deployed in the field.

In neighboring Syria, the Health Ministry also said no 2019-nCoV infections had been detected in the country, although strict measures were being taken at border crossings.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the ministry said that strict measures were being taken at harbors, land border crossings and at Damascus International Airport to detect suspected coronavirus infections.

Turkish authorities have not reported any 2019-nCoV cases during screenings of aircraft passengers from China using thermal cameras, according to news agencies.

Announcing on Friday that thermal cameras had been installed at all airports in the country, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca disclosed that one suspected infection had been detected and action taken.

“A Chinese national, who had a complaint of nausea, headache and uneasiness in Istanbul’s Buyuk Cekmece district, was isolated from other patients as a precaution on Wednesday night after (we learnt) she came from Wuhan,” he said.

“Although the general condition of the patient was good, her case was considered as suspicious due to her travel history. We sent her back to China this morning upon her request.”

Although no cases have been proven or confirmed yet in the Middle East, the WHO wants travelers with symptoms to seek medical attention and share travel history with their healthcare provider.

The WHO wants public health authorities to provide travelers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry. 

“Coronavirus infections are highly contagious, and symptoms are usually similar to that of the flu,” Dr Ali Mohammad, specialist pulmonologist at Aster Clinics in Dubai, told Arab News.

“Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, as well as, rarely, fecal contamination.”