Iran Deputy Health Minister Contracts Coronavirus

General view of a closed gate at Pakistan and Iran’s border posts, after Pakistan sealed its border with Iran as a preventive measure following the coronavirus outbreak. (Naseer Ahmed/Reuters)

Iran’s deputy health minister confirmed Tuesday that he had contracted coronavirus — one day after leading a briefing in which officials reassured the country that the outbreak was coming under control.

Iraj Harirchi said in a video from his home, where he had self-quarantined, that he was infected, and added that “I will certainly defeat corona.”

Harirchi gave a news briefing Monday before testing positive for the virus, during which Iran’s Health Ministry provided updates on the country’s efforts to contain the virus. A spokesman said Tuesday that Harirchi had been exposed to patients believed to be infected, and experienced weakness and flu-like symptoms before holding the briefing.

The video shows Harirchi visibly sweating and repeatedly wiping his forehead during the address.

Iran confirmed Tuesday that the coronavirus death toll in the country had reached 15, with 95 people testing positive nationwide, most of whom live in the northern city of Qom. An important religious destination, Qom is frequented by over 22 million visitors every year, 2.5 million of whom are foreigners.

On Monday, the World Health Organization pointed to spikes in coronavirus cases outside of China as proof of a potential pandemic, and urged the international community to be proactive in helping countries with weaker health systems to control the virus.

“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet,” WHO director Tedros Adhanom said. “. . . We must focus on containment, while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.”

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