Iranian health officials are working hard and are committed to stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country but more needs to be done, according to a report by the World Health Organization, which completed a several-day technical support mission to Iran on Friday.
The March 10-13 mission was done in partnership with GOARN partners, Robert Koch Institute in Berlin and the Chinese Center for Disease Control.
“We see that Iran’s strategies and priorities to control COVID-19 are evolving in the right direction, a comprehensive coordinated approach is being applied and solid work is being done, especially in the areas of case management, laboratories and risk communications,” said Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO regional emergency director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, who led the mission.
Brennan said that he was impressed by the engagement from multiple sectors of society in tackling the spread of the virus and that “the government is leveraging the strong national health system and disaster management capacities to respond to the outbreak.”
But he said that not enough is being done yet. WHO and Iranian officials agreed on several priority areas for improvement, the report said.
“We held constructive discussions on ways 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,” Brennan said. “More work also needs to be done to protect health workers.”
The report noted progress in scaling up the number of testing laboratories. There are currently 30, with at least 20 more expected to be added. WHO provided Iran with enough test kids to test at least 110,000 people and seven tons of protective equipment and supplies. Contact tracing is expanding and new sanitariums have opened in Tehran and Qom, which can care for sick patients and get them out of the country’s overcrowded hospitals.
“The fight against coronavirus in the Islamic Republic of Iran is ongoing, and everybody in the country is engaged in this response,” he added. "The right and timely public health measures implemented on an adequate scale will make a difference.”
WHO's representative in Iran, Dr. Christoph Hamelmann, said that like every affected country worldwide, Iran’s health system is being significantly challenged by the outbreak.
“WHO is working closely with the Islamic Republic of Iran in coordinating and providing critical international support to the country during this outbreak,” he said.
As of WHO’s March 12 situation report, there were more than 9,000 cases of coronavirus in Iran and close to 400 deaths - the largest number in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. The only countries with more cases than Iran are Italy, the Republic of Korea and of course China.A report by the ultra-Orthodox magazine Yated Neeman on Friday said that among those dead in Iran from the virus are two members of the country's small Jewish community.