Iran has requested the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funding to help it fight the pandemic that has severely impacted the country, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.
Iran is the worst-affected country in the Middle East where around 429 people have been killed so far as per government figures which according to experts could be much higher. It has disabled Iranian businesses and is bound to hit its non-oil exports after many neighbouring nations and trade partners sealed their borders.
Satellite images of mass graves in the city of Qom suggest Iran’s coronavirus pandemic is more grave than the Tehran is admitting. The pictures, first published by the New York Times, show the excavation of a new section in a cemetery on the northern fringe Qom in late February, and two long trenches dug, of a total length of 100 yards, by the end of the month.
They validate the worst apprehensions about the extent of the pandemic and Tehran’s consequent cover-up. On 24 February, at the time the trenches were being dug, a legislator from Qom blames the health ministry of concealing facts about the scale of the outbreak, saying there had already been 50 deaths in the city, at a time when the ministry was claiming only 12 people had died.
The deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, held a press conference and categorically rejected the accusations, but he was clearly sweating and coughing as he did so. The next day, Harirchi confirmed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
According to the latest health ministry figures, more than 10,000 Iranians have fallen ill from the virus and 429 have died. Amir Afkhami, who has written a history of Iran’s experience of cholera epidemics, A Modern Contagion, said the mass graves only add fuel to suspicions the real fatality numbers could be much higher than what the Iranian government is claiming.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they are now trying to create mass graves and trying to hide the actual extent of the impact of the disease,” Afkhami said, adding that the close business ties between Iran and China, and the government’s fear of upsetting that relationship had contributed to the early and accelerated spread of the disease.
“Because of China’s status as the country’s primary trading partner, the Tehran took inept measures to curb and monitor travellers from China,” Afkhami said. “Then, later on, Tehran’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to take sturdy measures such as social distancing and quarantine, particularly at the epicentre of the outbreak, helped spread the virus.”