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Iran Parliamentarian Demands Legal Action Against Rouhani Over Covid

Hossein-Ali Shahriari, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s public health committee and a medical doctor, has written to chief justice Ebrahim Raeesi saying President Hassan Rouhani should be prosecuted over his handling of Covid-19. Shahriari criticized Rouhani for not banning travel during the Iranian New Year holiday Nowruz, and argued officials could be prosecuted under a law on civic responsibility and under Islamic penal code of “negligence”.

Back in March 2020, Shahriari said on television that with the measures taken by Iran the pandemic would “certainly not last long.” He later argued for lockdowns and said publicly he would not take the Russian vaccine, although it has passed international tests.

Iran imposed a ten-day lockdown on Saturday [April 10] to prevent further deterioration of the situation as new virus variants push infections and deaths to over double of just two weeks ago. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces, health ministry spokesman Alireza Raeesi said, with the UK variant predominant in the country, and 257 cities and towns on red alert. Businesses, schools, theaters and sports facilities will shut and gathering banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins Wednesday.

Iran’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 2 million, with a new daily average over 20,000 infections over the past week, according to the health ministry. Iran has reported more than 64,000 fatalities, while many politicians, health experts and the media say the real figures are much higher.

“Unfortunately, today we have entered a fourth wave,” Rouhani said in televised remarks. He blamed the surge foremost on the variant that first emerged in the UK, and which spread to Iran this year probably from neighboring Iraq. But Rouhani said travel, weddings, and celebrations during Nowruz had contributed.

Iran has been an epicenter of the pandemic in the Middle East, and closed several crossing points with Iraq in February to stem the arrival of the UK variant. Tehran says it has received more than 400,000 of 2 million Sputnik V vaccines on order, and is awaiting delivery of 4.2 million AstraZeneca shots. It has also received 250,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and part of an order of 500,000 doses of India’s Covaxin.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned American and British vaccines in early January. Some other regional countries such as Turkey and Gulf Arab countries are well into mass vaccination efforts, although Turkey is currently reporting its highest daily case rate since the pandemic began and the World Health Organization has said that only 14 out of 21 countries from Morocco to Afghanistan - excluding Algeria and Israel - have received vaccines. Palestinians under Israeli occupation are largely unvaccinated as are migrant workers in the Arab Gulf states.

With a population of 83 million, Iran had hoped to secure over 2 million vaccines by March 20 to vaccinate mainly healthcare workers. It is developing at least four local vaccine candidates, one in cooperation with Cuba, which are due to reach production in a few months.

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