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“We are deeply surprised to learn that the approval for the deployment of our treatment unit has been revoked,” said Michel Olivier Lacharite, manager of the MSF Emergency programmes in Paris.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.


Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

A man travels on a scooter past the closed El-Sayeda Zainab Mosque in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2020

Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

  • The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines

CAIRO: People around the world are living in uncertain times as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread. Fatalities and infections are rising as cities and countries go into lockdown.
Egypt is under a partial lockdown, forcing people to stay, work and learn at home. Yet behind this massive change and a fear of the unknown, COVID-19 has brought advantages.
Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, starting on March 15, respect for the government has increased, especially on social media.
“Suddenly the government is laying down a series of preemptive actions to slow down the spread of the virus,” Mohamed Badr, 32, a Cairo resident, said. “They disregarded the economic impact and focused on the safety of the people which made us all proud.”
There have been diplomatic gains. China’s Ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang said that China and Egypt are partners and true friends, lauding Egypt’s support to Chinese efforts to combat the virus.
The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines.
The government’s order to shut down cafes and malls during curfew hours has led to a ban on the smoking of hookahs.
With fears over infections and with a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place, there is less consumption of unhealthy food.
There are fewer road accidents too. In 2018, there were 8,480 road accidents, according to the Bureau of Statistics. The number is expected to plunge this year due to the drop in vehicles on the road.

FASTFACT

Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, respect for the government has increased.

Working from home is the new normal. The culture of work from home is forcing its way in society as many learning technologies and cloud solutions are connecting homes and workplaces.
“When I used to invite people for a Zoom meeting they were surprised. Today, it’s a normal practice and many clients actually prefer this option,” a sales representative in Cairo said.
And with school and college students stuck at home, educational institutions have quickly taken up distance learning.
With millions of people now stuck in isolation, many are using the opportunity to get creative. Videos on social media show people developing hobbies, tricks, cooking skills and paintings.
Corporations are accelerating digital transformation. Several companies are racing to implement digital and cloud technologies to manage their businesses remotely. Several telco and financial institutions pushed their services online and through contact centers rather than branch visits.
Doctors are finally getting some credit. They have long called for better salaries and benefits but their requests have fallen on deaf ears. The virus has now brought some hope for a better package in the near future.
The environment is cleaner and less polluted. And now, everyone has more time to reflect.