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Iran Army Called To Help With Virus Control In Qom As It Imposes Quasi-Quarantine

Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) personnel came into the streets to fight Coronavirus. March 1, 2020
Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) personnel came into the streets to fight Coronavirus. March 1, 2020

The deputy commander of the Iranian army's ground force says the army has set up a makeshift hospital in Qom and has been helping with disinfection efforts in the city as the situation of coronavirus outbreak worsened in Qom, a critical point of the outbreak in Iran.

Arman newspaper in Tehran quoted Brigadier General Ali Jahanshahi on Thursday as having said that the army will disinfect the streets and public places of Qom in response to a request made by the Qom Province Governor-General.

He said: "The army (as distinct from IRGC) will be at the service of the people at the times of crisis with its maximum capacity. It has started disinfecting the streets in of all the provinces since last week."

Meanwhile, Mohsen Orouji, the director-general for Qom's Crisis Management Office has disclosed that "People will be monitored at all the exit points of the city and they will be quarantined in case they have suspicious symptoms."

The news of the army's contribution to disease control in Qom broke out a few days after pictures of army units patrolling the city were published in the media. It appears that although officials including President Hassan Rouhani have strongly opposed the idea of imposing a quarantine on Qom, the army is involved in some sort of quasi-quarantine operation in the holy city where clerical resistance against virus control has been strong.

Nevertheless, some other officials, including Vice-Speaker of the Iranian Parliament (Majles), Massoud Pezeshkian, a medical doctor, told the media that he believes Qom should have been quarantined as soon as it was found out to be the starting point of the outbreak.

"If I were the Minister of Health, I would have quarantined Qom on the first day and would not have allowed people to leave their houses. This disease is not a joke, we cannot treat it this way. You say all the time do not be afraid and we will fight! In my opinion, if a person is ill, he should be quarantined. All those in contact with him should also be quarantined so that they would not infect others," Pezeshkian said adding that people should know if they refuse to be quarantined, each one will infect tens of others.

Pezeshkian said: "There is no room for patients in hospitals, and the situation will get worse day after day. The country's economy and everything else will be disrupted unless we treat the matter seriously and in a military way."

The news agency of the Qom Seminary, Hozeh News, is still pumping superstition and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus outbreak. It reported on Friday that "Coronavirus has come to uproot Islam, then it will affect the holy shrines in Mekka, Karbala and elsewhere, and then the mosques everywhere. They are separating people from God and no one says anything. How can a flu-like virus kill people so easily? The virus is being controlled by the enemy."

Earlier, the superintendent of the shrine in Qom had said that no virus will affect anyone in the shrine and zealots videoed themselves licking the ornaments and the gates of the shrine which are touched by hundreds of people every hour.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard General Hossein Salami and a prominent member of the parliament Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh charged that coronavirus was part of a biological warfare by the United States.

As a result, according to Ali Ebrazeh, the vice-chancellor of the medical school in Qom, the people in the city have been defying virus control advice given by the officials although 840 people have been hospitalized in Qom as of Thursday.

He says "The outbreak is serious and widespread, but the people have still not taken it seriously. We have asked the people repeatedly to avoid unnecessary travel, but they do not pay attention." He continued: "From March 3, public health teams have been stationed at the city's exit ways. People who want to leave the city will be monitored and their temperature will be checked. If they have any suspicious symptoms they cannot leave, and they will be quarantined."

All this is happening against a backdrop of a rising death toll and constant increase in the number of coronavirus patients in Iran. The Ministry of Health says 4,747 Iranians have tested positive for the virus and 124 have died. Independent sources say the actual toll is much higher, possibly up to several times more than government figures.

Other badly affected provinces including Gilan and Mazandaran have started their own quasi-quarantine controlling the incoming traffic. Traffic control cameras in Iran show that roads to the northern provinces are no longer busy after the quarantine.

Video in this tweet shows the quiet road to the north of the country after lockdowns.

Even foreign countries are weary of the seriousness of the outbreak in Iran. On Thursday, Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca cancelled his meeting with an Iranian delegation due to the outbreak in Iran and suggested that they can have a conversation via Skype.

Turkey's Health Minister told reporters on Wednesday that Iran had rejected Turkey's suggestion for introducing quarantine arrangements in Qom.