Rouhani says virus has spread to nearly all Iranian provinces

President Hassan Rouhani urges US to lift sanctions from medicine to help country battle virus’ spread. (Reuters pic)

DUBAI: Novel coronavirus has affected almost all of Iran’s provinces but the country will get through the outbreak with a “minimum” number of deaths, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.

“This disease is a widespread disease,” he said during a cabinet meeting, according to the official presidency website.

“It has reached almost all our provinces and in one sense it’s a global disease.”

Iran’s health ministry on Tuesday announced 92 people had died from coronavirus, one of the highest death tolls outside China where the outbreak originated.

It said 2,922 people had been infected with coronavirus.

Among those infected is first vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, the IranWire news site reported, citing an “informed source”. There was no immediate confirmation from officials.

Several Iranian officials have been infected with the coronavirus and one senior official died from an infection on Monday.

The Islamic Republic has cancelled Friday prayers in all provincial capitals this week because of the coronavirus outbreak, state television reported on Wednesday.

Rouhani said Iran would get through the outbreak with minimum deaths and in the shortest period of time with the skills of its doctors and nurses.

He took a jab at an American offer to help with the outbreak without mentioning the United States directly.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had offered to help Iran with the outbreak.

“They’ve appeared with a mask of sympathy that ‘we also want to help the people of Iran’,” Rouhani said. “If you are really telling the truth, then lift sanctions from medicine.”

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and reimposed sanctions which have hammered Iran’s economy.

US officials have said that the sanctions do not target medicine for Iran, a point Iranian officials dispute.

Video aired on state TV of Wednesday’s cabinet meeting showed Rouhani and ministers in a larger room than the usual venue for the weekly gathering.

IranWire reported that first vice-president Jahangiri was quarantined last week after a government meeting on combating coronavirus which was attended by several ministers and senior officials.