WHO says 'more needs to be done' to stem coronavirus outbreak in Iran as cases exceed 10,000

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Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza’s holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran February 27, 2020.

Reuters

Public health efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran are “evolving in the right direction,” but “more needs to be done” to stop the spread as cases exceed 10,000, the World Health Organization said Friday.

“We are all still students of this new virus,” Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO Regional Emergency Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region, said in a statement released Friday. “We need to track its spread closely and quickly apply proven public health measures, such as early detection, early isolation and treatment, contact tracing, and risk communications,”

“More works also needs to be done to protect health workers,” Brennan added. “The fight against coronavirus in the Islamic Republic of Iran is ongoing, and everybody in the country is engaged in this response.”

Since Iran reported its first two cases of the virus on Feb 19., the number of confirmed cases has ballooned to more than 10,000 with at least 429 deaths, according to WHO data.

A WHO-led team of experts concluded a support mission to the country on Tuesday, the agency said Friday. Iran public health officials have done “solid work” in areas of case management, laboratories and risk communications, Brennan said. “We are also impressed by the engagement from other sectors of the community.”

But Brennan added health officials need to advance epidemiological data collection and analysis, which are “key to getting a better understanding of the evolution of the outbreak and appropriate control measures.”

Over 30 labs across Iran have the capacity to run tests and at least 20 more will be added, Brennan said. WHO has also provided enough kits to test at least 110,000 people and “seven tons” of protective equipment and supplies, he said.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on Wednesday.

During a press conference, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said several countries have been able to suppress and control the outbreak, but he scolded other world leaders for failing to act quickly enough or drastically enough to contain the spread.

“We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” he said at the time, just before declaring the pandemic. “We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.” 

Earlier this month, Iran’s health authorities began manning checkpoints to limit travel between major cities amid the virus outbreak and shut down schools and universities.

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