The head of Iran's counter-coronavirus task force has tested positive for the virus himself, authorities announced Tuesday, showing the challenges facing the Islamic Republic amid concerns the outbreak may be far wider than officially acknowledged.
The announcement regarding Iraj Harirchi came after he gave a news conference with journalists in Tehran about the virus just one day prior, seeking to minimize the danger posed by the outbreak.
The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday meanwhile banned all flights to and from Iran over the outbreak of the new coronavirus, just a day after its spread from the Islamic Republic was announced across multiple Mideast nations. Iran earlier raised the official death toll from the virus to 15 killed amid 95 confirmed infections.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour confirmed Harirchi had the virus. Harirchi himself posted an online video saying he had the virus and that he had quarantined himself at his home. He promised that authorities would bring the virus under control.
However, having the top official in charge of stopping the virus become sick with it is just the latest woe to befall Iran as the UAE cut off Iranian flights from the country.
The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran's 80 million people. The flight ban, which will last at least a week, shows the growing concern over the spread of the virus in Iran amid worries the outbreak may be larger than what authorities there now acknowledge.
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