More than 3,000 coronavirus cases in Iran

Middle East prepares for growing emergency

An Iranian cleric walks in front of the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
An Iranian cleric walks in front of the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom
Iran now has more than 3,500 official cases of coronavirus as rates spread rapidly. Suspicions are that numbers are far higher, even though Tehran claims only 100 have died. Throughout the Middle East, cases are increasing with new discoveries in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, the Palestinian Authority and elsewhere.
Countries are preparing for the worst. The UAE has advised against travelling abroad. Iran has accused Bahrain of mistreating its Shi’ite minority over concerns that some of them came from Iran with the virus. Schools and mosques are being closed as governments seek to prevent large gatherings. So far it is unclear if any of the directives have actually helped stop the spread of coronavirus in the region, especially since some countries may be underreporting the number of cases or have citizens with the virus who are unaware.
In terms of preparation, the Gulf states and the Kurdistan region of Iraq have attempted to get ahead of the crisis by preparing. They quarantined suspected cases and have attempted to prepare hospitals for worse to come. They also sought to tamp down on large public gatherings in late February. However, Iran’s decision in mid-February to deny that the virus was spreading in Qom has now resulted in massive rates of infections, especially among its leadership. This includes suspected virus cases among dozens of members of parliament and key advisers to the supreme leader.
Iran has sought to distract from the crises by upping its stockpile of uranium, which it revealed on Wednesday. It has also begun a social media campaign to attack India for alleged mistreatment of India’s Muslim minority. Iran’s regime appears to seek out a new crisis to claim that the coronavirus is some kind of conspiracy against it. It has alleged western media exaggerates the extent of the virus  and that the West may have been involved in even creating  the crises. However, Iran’s English language propaganda media, such as Press TV, have huge banners claiming Iran is “fighting” the virus.
As the virus spreads from Iran and also via other less developed countries, it is harder  to contain. The Gulf countries were well-placed to deal with upwards of 50 cases in Kuwait and Bahrain. However, it is unclear if that is  the case in parts of Iraq or Egypt. Help may not be coming either. The UAE has sought to assist South Korea  and countries have recalled their citizens. But none of the countries are in a place to help Egypt  or Iraq if things worsen because they must guard their own societies.