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Corona busters? Iran police launch 'operation deep clean' to tackle deadly virus

More than 1,000 cases have been reported in Iran [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 March, 2020

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A special police force in Iran has began a mass operation to disinfect public spaces in the country, state media reported on Monday, as the coronavirus death toll increased.
Iran launched an operation to fight the deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, state media reported on Monday, as the death toll continued to rise.

Special units from Iran's police force began disinfecting streets and public places, Mehr News Agency reported, just hours after Tehran announced the death of another 12 people, bringing the total toll to 66.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday said it also sent its first planeload of assistance to Iran to help fight the novel coronavirus.

Six medics have been dispatched along with 7.5 tonnes of medical equipment and supplies, including test kits, aboard a UAE military aircraft, said Robert Blanchard from the WHO in Dubai.

Supplies worth more than $300,000 were dispatched from the UAE to Iran on Monday, Blanchard said. Among the supplies sent were gloves, surgical marks and respirators - "the critical items needed for infection prevention and control to support health care workers", he added.

Read also: Applying essential oil to anus 'cures coronavirus': Iranian cleric

The WHO official also warned that global supplies to combat the novel coronavirus are running low.

"What we see now is that demand has greatly exceeded our available stocks... and we are struggling to get access to more supplies," he explained.

The six-member medical team sent to Iran is made up of doctors, epidemiologists and laboratory specialists who will help the Islamic Republic detect and control the virus, Blanchard said.

WHO operations manager Nevien Attalla said some 15,000 health workers in Iran would benefit from the supplies which were the "first big shipment which supports the response to coronavirus". 

"Iran is a challenging country. You don't have always easy approvals to go," she said. 

Iran has seen the deadliest outbreak of the new coronavirus outside of China, the epicentre of the outbreak

The number of confirmed cases leapt by 523 from the previous day, to a total of 1,501, Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi told a news conference.

The worst-hit places were Tehran, the central province of Qom and Gilan in the north, Raisi said, adding that 291 people had recovered. 

Qom, a Shia Muslim holy city, was the scene of Iran's first reported cases and deaths from the outbreak.

Experts are worried over Iran's response to the crisis, as the country's rate of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries.

That rate likely means the number of people infected with the virus is higher than currently thought.

Read also: Family fear Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has contracted novel coronavirus in Iranian jail

A senior member of Iran's advisory council died after contracting the novel coronavirus, state media reported on Monday, the first top official to succumb to the illness as the Islamic Republic struggles to contain the outbreak.

Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi, who is among the officials that advise the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died at the age of 71 at a Tehran hospital.

On Saturday, recently-elected Iranian MP Mohammed Ali Ramazani died after being tested positive for the deadly virus a few days earlier, The Independent reported.

One of Iran's seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi are among several senior officials who have been infected.

Across the wider Middle East region, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran. 

Many of Iran's neighbours have imposed restrictions on travel to and from the Islamic Republic.

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