Iran’s Minister of Health has lambasted authorities at the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Trade (MIMT) for "deceitful" remarks regarding promises of producing large quantities of protective masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In a letter to his counterpart at the MIMT, Saee Namaki has rejected the claim that Iran was capable of manufacturing millions of medical masks per day, dismissing it as "demagoguery" and a "hollow slogan" to deceive the people.
Namaki has also vehemently complained about the activity of a "highly complicated network" that "hoards millions of antiviral masks" across Iran.
"During the past week, the Ministry of Health has only received one million medical masks," Namaki has lamented in his letter to the MIMT Minister, Reza Rahmani.
In recent days, several authorities at different state entities of the Islamic Republic have parroted a remark, claiming that Iran can manufacture a massive number of medical masks.
"We are attempting to manufacture at least one million medical masks per day," an industry official Masoud Amrollahi, claimed on Sunday, March 1.
Speaking to the members of Iran's "National Coronavirus Combat and Prevention Headquarters" on Monday, MIMT's deputy, Hossein Modarres Khiabani, said, "Based on the Ministry's agreement with the Clothing Union, the production of 4.5-5 million medical masks per day will soon begin in the country."
As the head of Prevention Headquarters, Namaki has insisted in his letter that law enforcement and security agents should not be content with just to confiscating medical masks hoarded in the warehouses.
"You should step in, control medical mask factories, and address the problem," Namaki has urged the Islamic Republic Police.
Namaki's letter to the MIMT Minister is dated February 29, but local media published it today, Monday, March 2.
The whole argument about medical masks and lack of disinfectants stems from state control of the economy, a highly controlled foreign trade system and cumbersome price-setting systems. Iran’s economic model is a strange combination of capitalism and state control, leading to inefficiencies and corruption.
In another letter to the Islamic Republic President Hassan Rouhani last Friday, Namaki had also complained about the health ministry not receiving enough medical masks and forced to buy what it needed from merchants and “smugglers” at much higher prices. He also alleged of a “network” hoarding protective masks.
Hours after receiving Namaki's letter, President Hassan Rouhani assigned the Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi, to investigate possible hoarding of medical coveralls and masks.
Meanwhile, the conservative editor of Khabar Online, Mohammad Mohajeri, claimed in a tweet on Monday that the Minister of Intelligence has called and urged him to follow up on the case, and ask Namaki to identify the person in charge of the "complicated network" dominating the medical mask market in Iran.
It is strange, to say the least, for one minister to ask a newspaperman for information another minister might have. People wondered on social media if the minister of intelligence is not in speaking terms with the health minister.