Iranian Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei on Tuesday defended the authorities in charge of dissemination of news about coronavirus outbreak and said they were “honest and transparent from day one”.
In a taped video message showing him after planting two trees in the garden of his office on the occasion of Tree-Planting Day, Khamenei told the Iranians to follow health authorities' instructions to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Their orders must not be ignored because God holds us responsible about acting responsibly about our own health and the health of other people,” Khamenei who was himself wearing disposable gloves said.
He also ordered all organizations, including the Armed Forces and organizations affiliated to his own office, to cooperate with the Health Ministry.
Khamenei, however, accused other countries of hiding the truth about the spread of illness and claimed the illness is “more serious” and “spread more widely” in those countries which he did not name.
The Iranian Supreme Leader said the current situation is “transitory and not extraordinary”. “I do not want to undermine the issue but let’s not exaggerate it either,” Khamenei said.
Iranian authorities denied the spread of coronavirus for days before the death of two patients in Qom on February 19 forced them to finally admit that the virus was spreading in Iran.
On March 2 Iran International, a London-based Persian-language satellite TV channel, claimed that Iranian authorities were aware of the arrival of coronavirus from the beginning of February.
Iran International’s report said the Supreme National Security Council (SNCS) and the Ministry of Health had been informed of coronavirus deaths nearly two weeks before the anniversary of the revolution march which took place on February 11.
According to the latest official announcements on March 3, so far 77 people have died of coronavirus but some unofficial reports say more than 400 have fallen victim to the disease.
Khamenei’s first response to the coronavirus crisis was describing it as a “good pretext for Iran’s enemies” to scare people to keep them away from ballot boxes and undermine the parliamentary elections held on February 21. Iranian officials including the Supreme Leader himself have always cited high election turnout as proof of popularity and legitimacy of the regime.