On Feb. 19, Iran reported the first case of novel coronavirus infection in the Islamic holy city of Qom. Since then, in just over two weeks, the number of cases has risen at an alarming rate. As on Tuesday (Mar. 3), the West Asian country has reported 2,336 Covid-19 cases and 77 fatalities.
Such a surge in a short span of time raises serious questions, both about the health infrastructure and the government handling of the crisis. The coronavirus fatality rate in Iran is the highest. Neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq have reported cases linked to travel to Iran.
People collapse on streets
Several videos purportedly show Iranians infected with the disease collapsing on the streets.
Bodies pile up in hospital
A video purportedly from the Iranian city Qom shows scores of dead bodies wrapped in plastic bags.
Iranian officials test positive
Mohammad Mirmohammadi (71), adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, died on Monday due to coronavirus, Fox News reported. Several reports have emerged that the adviser to Iran's Judiciary Head, Ahmad Tuiserkani, has also succumbed to coronavirus, Russia's Sputnik News reported.
Dr. Pirhossein Kolivand, head of Iran's emergency medical services, has also tested positive. As many as 23 parliamentarians have also been infected. Earlier, Iranian Vice President for Women's Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, who was the spokesperson for the Islamic student revolutionaries, who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, tested positive, on Thursday (Feb. 27). Deputy Health Minister, Iraj Harirchi confirmed on Feb. 25 that he had also been infected.
Eighty-one-year-old Hadi Khosroshahi, the Islamic republic's first ambassador to the Vatican, died on February 27.
With the disease spreading at such a rapid pace, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the country's military to assist health officials in combating the outbreak.
"Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good and what helps to spread it is sin," Khomeini said on Tuesday (Mar. 3).