President Hassan Rouhani says the coronavirus testing kits developed by Iranian experts are undergoing final tests and will enter the mass-production stage in the near future.
All the initial tests on the package have proven to be “positive and credible,” Rouhani told a cabinet session in Tehran on Wednesday, saying the equipment would undergo final examination over the next couple of days.
“Shortly, we will be able to make hundreds of thousands and even millions of these kits, and place them at the disposal of all of the country’s hospitals” he said, noting that the package would enable medics to easily diagnose new cases.
The virus — named COVID-19 — first emerged in China late last year and is now spreading in Europe and across the Middle East, sparking fears of a global pandemic.
The outbreak has killed more than 2,600 people and infected more than 77,000 others in China. But the situation has worsened elsewhere with nearly 2,700 other cases and more than 40 deaths globally.
In Iran, the virus showed up in the north-central city of Qom, a destination for Muslim pilgrims from across the world. In all, the spread has taken 19 lives across the country and infected as many as 139 others, most of them in Qom, according to the figures released on Wednesday by Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of public relations and information center of the Iranian Ministry of Health.
The president warned against either “understatement or overstatement” of the extent of the problem inside the country, and ruled out the possibility of any lockdowns.
“There will be no lockdowns of neighborhoods or cities. Only individual people showing the initial symptoms of the virus would be quarantined,” he said.
Rouhani referred to the National Taskforce for Fighting Coronavirus, which has been formed on his orders, as the only reliable entity for preventative directives and statistics.
A bigger threat than coronavirus
The president said what demands even more attention than coronavirus itself was “the virus of fear, anxiety, ambivalence, and distrust among the people,” which has to be tackled properly as it could lead to other problems if not contained.
Rouhani pointed to stepped-up US attempts, over the past two years, to bring to a standstill economic activities and productivity inside Iran, cautioning that “the coronavirus should not turn into a weapon in the hands of the enemies” to achieve that objective.
As a case in point, he referred to remarks made on Tuesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who accused Beijing and Tehran of censoring information about the outbreak and putting the rest of the world at greater risk.
“They themselves are afflicted with the coronavirus over there. They themselves lost 16,000 people to the flu, but do not make any references to it,” Rouhani said.
The president, meanwhile, praised the efforts made across the country over the past couple of weeks in terms of quarantining and treating patients, preventing the outbreak’s further spread, as well as attempts by security forces to confront those seeking to hoard supplies.
Overcoming the virus may take a few weeks, he noted, adding that the outbreak could not possibly be more dangerous than the flu, which the country had already tackled.
The president noted that there has been a decline in the number of people seeking medical help, and there has been progress in the treatment approaches that are being used.