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Former Iran Health Minister Says He Warned Officials Last Year On Coronavirus Threat

Former health minister in the Rouhani administration, Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, who resigned on budget issues in early January 2019.

Iran's former health minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi says he warned top officials about the dangers of novel coronavirus last year, but they did not heed his advice. He also lambasted the Islamic Republic authorities for their "mismanagement" of the deadly virus crisis in the country.

"Since late December, I was warning about the spread of the coronavirus and presenting the country's senior officials, including the honorable President, and my proposals to contain it," Ghazizadeh wrote on his Instagram page on Sunday, March 22.

It is for the first time that a prominent Islamic Republic politician reveals that Iran had been hit by the deadly virus long before the authorities publicly announced its outbreak.

On February 19, local news outlets disclosed that two people were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the city of Qom. On the same day, the Ministry of Health announced that both had died.

Two days later, under public pressure, the ministry reported three new cases of coronavirus all in Qom, the main center of Shiite seminaries in Iran.

Ghazizadeh, Minister of Health (2013 to 2019) in President Hassan Rouhani's administration, says he decided back in November not to go public but rather pass on his warnings confidentially, believing it could be more effective.

Lambasting the methods used in Iran to contain the novel coronavirus, Ghazizadeh has asserted, "With such methods, we cannot get rid of the 'uninvited guest,' and it will take more victims."

Despite numerous reports on the outbreak of the coronavirus and its related deadly disease, Covid-19, the Islamic Republic authorities kept silent about it. It took them weeks until they were forced to admit the outbreak on February 19.

Nonetheless, the official news agency of President Hassan Rouhani's government, IRNA, cited an "informed source" at the presidential office as saying on Sunday, "Dr. Ghazizadeh's claim about expressing his concern to the President in late December, cannot be confirmed."

Ghazizadeh, an ophthalmologist, resigned in early January 2019, to protest budget cuts.