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Iran Coronavirus Cases Exceed 10,000, With Rouhani's Role Challenged

Iranian Firefighters disinfect streets in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus in Tehran, March 11, 2020

The spread of coronavirus in Iran is still an ascending slope and there is no sign of a decline in the number of cases or the death toll, the spokesman for the Iranian Health Ministry, Kianush Jahanpur said on Thursday March 12.

He told reporters that the number of confirmed cases in Iran has reached 10,075 and the death toll has also taken another leap and reached 429 with 75 patients dying mainly at intensive care units during the past day.

This is a sharp rise compared to previous day's figures of 9,000 infections and 354 deaths and the third highest infection and death toll in the world.

The death toll announced by the health Ministry is still less than half the sum total of cases counted by Radio Farda journalists based on statements by local officials in various parts of the country.

At least another foreign-based media outlet has put the Coronavirus fatality in Iran above one thousand.

However, looking at the bright side of life under coronavirus, Jahanpur said the number of patients being discharged from hospitals is on the rise, adding that 3,276 of the 10,075 patients who had tested positive for the virus have been discharged from hospitals.

But this is not the whole truth. At least in Mashhad in Khorasan Province, patients discharged from hospitals are reportedly taken to hotels that have been evacuated to host patients with improving conditions to make room in hospital for an increasing number of new patients.

Jahanpur claimed that thanks to the Health Ministry's "successful intervention" the situation has improved in some provinces and they now have room for new patients. However, he did not name those provinces.

Meanwhile, Jahanpur said that the medical staff in Iran are now capable of testing 6,000 patients per day. However, he advised that citizens should not go to hospital or test centers with no reason as there are the places where they are most likely to pick up the virus.

Giving an idea of how widespread the contagion is, Jahanpur said that there have been 303 new confirmed Coronavirus cases in Tehran, 88 in Central Province, 84 in Gilan, and 79 cases in Mazandaran Province during the past 24 hours.

This was the second day since President Hassan Rouhani has been put in charge of the national disease prevention and control task force. In a bid to play down the emergency situation, the statement by the Health Ministry Spokesman today were more parsimonious, with little details provided.

Meanwhile, for the first time during the past weeks, a moderator was placed next to the spokesperson who interrupted and intervened in the news conference possibly to make sure that Jahanpur would not cross the government's red lines.

Confirming the conservative approach to news dissemination, the official news agency IRNA reported that Health Ministry officials have told local officials not to announce any figures about Ccoronavirus fatalities.

Meanwhile, in a manifestation of the Rouhani administration's security approach to news dissemination, Shiraz City Councillor Mehdi Hajati, and Mohammad Mokhtari, the captain of Damash soccer club in Gilan have been arrested for criticizing the government's disease control policy.

In the meantime, fragmented reports in newspapers and social media indicate that appointing Rouhani as the official in charge of the national disease prevention and control task force was an idea engineered by hardliners to get him involved in a mission which is hard to accomplish.

Meanwhile, Deputy Majles Speaker Massoud Pezeshkian who first broke the news about Rouhani's new responsibility has said in an interview in the Thursday's edition of Arman newspaper that "the hidden government which controls the situation's management is not accountable." Referring to the Iranian hardliners' role, he added that there is a shadow government that undermines the Rouhani administration's actions."

Continuing the debate about who should be in charge of disease prevention and control, Etemad newspaper on Thursday opined on its front-page that "Rouhani has appointed Health Minister Namaki to lead the task force, but hardliners insist that Rouhani should be the chairman of the Coronavirus Task Force."

last update: 11 March
Deaths: 33