Iran goes to online briefings while Tehran fights a new virus

TEHERAN: On Monday, trying to stop the outbreak of the new, Iran held an information session only online by its Foreign Ministry when Britain began to evacuate non-essential personnel and families from the country that has the largest number of deaths from the virus outside of China.

Iran has reported 978 confirmed cases of the new virus with 54 deaths from the disease it causes, called COVID-19.

Across the Middle East, there are more than 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, most of which are linked to Iran.

Experts fear that the percentage of deaths from infections in Iran, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than in other countries, suggesting that the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than current figures show .

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi opened the online press conference on the outbreak and rejected an offer of help for Iran from the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo .

Iran and the USA UU. They have seen some of the worst tensions since their 1979 Islamic Revolution in recent months, culminating in the US drone attack that killed a high-ranking general in Baghdad and a subsequent counterattack of Iranian ballistic missiles against US forces.

We do not have such help nor are we willing to accept verbal help, Mousavi said. He added that Iran has always been suspicious of the intentions of the United States and accused the US government of trying to weaken Iranian spirits by the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the British embassy has begun evacuations for the virus.

The essential staff needed to continue the critical work will continue to be, said the British Foreign Ministry.

In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British embassy to provide assistance to British citizens from Iran may be limited, he said.

While Iran has closed schools and universities to stop the spread of the virus, the main Shia sanctuaries have remained open even though civil authorities have called for them to close.

The sacred cities of Mashhad and Qom in particular, both where sanctuaries are located, have been severely affected by the virus. Shiites often touch and kiss shrines as a sign of their faith. The authorities have been cleaning the sanctuaries with disinfectants.

Police arrested a man who posted a video showing himself licking the metal that encloses the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, the most important Shiite saint buried in the country, according to semi-official news agency reports.

In the video, the man said he licked the metal to allow others to visit the sanctuary in peace.

Meanwhile, the virus outbreak was dragged into the boycott of Qatar for four years by four Arab nations over a political dispute.

A prominent columnist for the Al-Bayan newspaper, owned by the government of Dubai, on Twitter, falsely described the virus as a plot by Qatar to harm the next Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Noura al-Moteari later described the tweet as satire to The Associated Press after calling attention.

The Dubai Media Office similarly described the tweet as written in a cynical style while distancing the Arabic language from al-Moteari.

Noura is a freelance writer and is not an Al-Bayan employee nor does she represent the views of the publication, she told the AP.

That said, this has no relevance to any social media policy practiced by the publication or by the state.

The tweet comes after Qatar expressed disappointment on Sunday that almost all of its Gulf neighbors rejected invitations to attend the weekend peace signing ceremony between the United States and the Taliban.