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Iran's Mahan Air accused of defying travel bans, 'spreading coronavirus' in the Middle East

Iran has 99,970 confirmed coronavirus cases. [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 May, 2020

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The Iranian airline broke government flight bans and contributed to the spread of covid-19 to the region, a report said.
Hundreds of Mahan Air planes carried passengers from Iran - after a major coronavirus outbreak - to countries in the Middle East contributed to spreading the disease in the region and defied a ban on flights from the Islamic Republic, a BBC report said on Tuesday.

The first confirmed coronavirus cases in Lebanon and Iraq were passengers on outbound flights from Iran, operated by the privately-owned Iranian airline, according to the investigation carried out by BBC Arabic.

The airline continued to fly despite government flight bans from Iran and "contributed to the spread of Covid-19 in the Middle East", the report said.

The BBC also claimed cabin crew and passengers flying with the airline at the time were not provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), necessary to stem the spread of the virus. 

Mahan Air "put the lives of its passengers and cabin crew at risk", the report alleged.

Iran, Iraq, the UAE and Syria gave the airline the green light to carry out flights between late January and the end of March, while they barred all other companies from flying in from Iran, according to the report.

Citing unnamed sources employed by the airline, the BBC reported staff trying to raise concerns over the virus were threatened with getting sacked and "silenced".

The US has imposed sanctions on Mahan Air citing ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as well as accusations that it helped deliver Iranian arms and military personnel to Syria, to bolster Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

Iran became the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East last month, with confirmed cases nearing 100,000 as of Tuesday, resulting in over 6,000 deaths.

In March, it was reported that the airline's flights between Iran and China played a "key role in starting and fuelling the coronavirus outbreak" in Iran.

Read more: Mahan Air's return flights to China 'fuelled coronavirus outbreak in Iran'

The airline company is also reportedly involved in recent shipments of gold bars from Iran to Venezuela, while Iran's government has denied the allegations.


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