A senior Iranian official Tuesday ruled out help from “foreign forces” to deal with the coronavirus epidemic after an offer from a France-based medical charity, as the country’s death toll from the illness neared 2,000.

Taking to Twitter, Alireza Vahabzadeh, advisor to Iran’s health minister said, “Due to Iran’s national mobilisation against the virus and the full use of the medical capacity of the armed forces, it is not necessary for now for hospital beds to be set up by foreign forces, and their presence is ruled out”.

Earlier on Sunday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had said that it planned to send a nine-member team and equipment to set up a 50-bed hospital, stirring opposition from ultra-conservative circles in the Islamic republic who charged that MSF staff would serve as “spies”.

According to the health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpou, Iran recorded 1,762 new cases have been confirmed in Iran over the past 24 hours and 24,811 people are now known to have been infected with the new coronavirus.

He announced 122 new deaths from the virus, raising the official toll to 1,934 in one of the world’s worst hit countries.

Last week, President Hassan Rouhani has touted the country’s response to COVID-19 outbreak as more efficient than western countries.

On Monday, Rouhani said that the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak in the country had peaked.

Iran has the fourth highest official death toll from the coronavirus after Italy, China and Spain but, unlike those countries, it has yet to impose any lockdown on its citizens.

On the contrary, the country is in the midst of the two-week Persian New Year holiday when the country’s roads fill with people visiting family.
Despite the authorities’ appeals for people to stay home and the closure of shopping and leisure centres, many people have taken to the roads as usual this year.

On Tuesday, the UN rights chief called for any sanctions imposed on countries like Iran facing the new coronavirus pandemic to be “urgently re-evaluated” to avoid pushing strained medical systems into collapse.

Iran has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East by the outbreak of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus.

The novel Coronavirus outbreak has caused alarm as it has crossed global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.

(With inputs from agency)