Iran turns away Medecins Sans Frontieres coronavirus hospital

People wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus in Rasht, Gilan province, Iran. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Iran turns away Medecins Sans Frontieres coronavirus hospital

  • Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a global medical charity, had sent a mobile 50-bed hospital and team of medics to Isfahan
  • MSF said it was incomprehensible that Iran had turned down the help after an agreement had been made

LONDON: Iran has turned away a major international aid operation to help the country treat coronavirus cases.

Iran is being crippled by one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the world, with the regime’s figures claiming 1,934 people had died as of Tuesday.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a global medical charity, had sent a mobile 50-bed hospital and team of medics to Isfahan to help hospital workers there handle the huge volume of cases.

On Tuesday, MSF said it was incomprehensible that Iranian health ministry officials had removed approval for the organization to help manage severe cases after the team nd equipment had already arrived in Tehran.

“We are deeply surprised to learn that the approval for the deployment of our treatment unit has been revoked,” said Michel Olivier Lacharite, manager of the MSF Emergency programmes in Paris. “The need for this intervention, and the authorisations needed to start it, were discussed and agreed with relevant Iranian authorities during the past weeks. Our teams were ready to start medical activities at the end of this week.”

The announcement came after an Iranian health ministry adviser said on Monday that the country did not need MSF’s help.

“We currently do not have a need for hospital beds set up by foreign forces,” Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted.

Earlier, MSF said the operation involved an inflatable hospital and a nine-person team of emergency and intensive care doctors and logistics personnel to treat patients critically ill with the virus.

The hospital had been flown from France and was to be set up inside the compound of Amin hospital in Isfahan.

“Iran is by far the hardest hit country in the region, and Isfahan the second worst-affected province in Iran,” says Julie Reverse, MSF’s representative in Iran. “We hope our assistance will relieve at least some of the pressure on the local health system.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday turned down a US offer of humanitarian assistance, saying “they could be giving medicines to Iran that spread the virus or cause it to remain permanently in Iran.”

The outbreak has swept through Iran where the government has been criticized for its slow response and covering up the true extent of those infected.

Last week officials conceded that someone was dying from Covid-19 every 10 minutes in the country.


Iran says scientist jailed in US to return in days

Updated 01 June 2020

Iran says scientist jailed in US to return in days

  • Asgari was accused by a US court in 2016 of stealing trade secrets while on an academic visit to Ohio
  • Iran’s foreign ministry said last month that Asgari had contracted the novel coronavirus while in US custody

TEHRAN: Tehran said Monday that scientist Sirous Asgari, one of more than a dozen Iranians behind bars in the United States, is set to return to the Islamic republic within days.
Asgari was accused by a US court in 2016 of stealing trade secrets while on an academic visit to Ohio.
But the 59-year-old scientist from Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology was acquitted in November.
The academic told British newspaper The Guardian in March that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was keeping him in a detention center in Louisiana without basic sanitation and refusing to let him return to Iran despite his exoneration.
“Dr. Sirous Asgari’s case has been closed in America and he will probably return to the country in the next two or three days,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
“That is, if no issues or obstacles come up,” he said, quoted by semi-official news agency ISNA.
Iran’s foreign ministry said last month that Asgari had contracted the novel coronavirus while in US custody.
If he returns to Iran, the scientist would become one of the few detainees held by either side not to have been released in a prisoner exchange.
Both Iran and the United States hold a number of each other’s nationals and they have recently called for them to be released amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iran is battling what is the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the virus, while the US has reported the highest total number of deaths worldwide from the disease.
Iran is holding at least five Americans and the US has 19 Iranians in detention, according to a list compiled by AFP based on official statements and media reports.
Tensions between the two arch enemies escalated in 2018, after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said last month that Tehran had offered “some time ago” to exchange all Iranian and US prisoners but was waiting for a response from the US.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of US homeland security, responded mockingly by saying Iran should “send a charter plane over” and return its nationals.
Mousavi hit back on Twitter by saying the world “is watching your action, not your word.”
The Islamic republic in December freed Xiyue Wang, a US academic, in exchange for scientist Massoud Soleimani and said it was open to further swaps.
It has also said it has released more than 100,000 inmates, including 1,000 foreigners, to ease the pressure on Iran’s prison system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Americans and dual nationals currently known to be held by Iran include US Navy veteran Michael R. White, Siamak Namazi along with his father Baquer, Morad Tahbaz, Gholam Reza Shahini, and Karan Vafadari.
Asgari is one of the 19 held by the US, most of them dual nationals and charged with evading sanctions by either exporting goods to Iran or using the US financial system.
Long-time foes Iran and the United States have appeared to come to the brink of a direct conflict twice in the past year.
The most recent case was in January when Iran fired a barrage of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general.
Trump refrained from taking any military action in response, however.
Iran on Monday also vowed to keep sending shipments of fuel to Venezuela in defiance of US threats.
The US has imposed unilateral sanctions aimed at ending oil exports by both Iran and Venezuela, both major crude producers.
“If Venezuela demands new shipments, we will export more to this country and any other who requires our shipments,” Mousavi said.
It comes days after Iranian tankers carrying much-needed petrol arrived in Venezuela.