Iran's Rouhani defends virus response despite no lockdownNews

Saturday, 21 Mar, 2020

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Norouz, that begins on March 20.

"We had two great challenges in the last year, which we will have to beat in the new year", he said.

"Primarily, these acts of sacrifice were made by medical groups, physicians, nurses, assistants, managers, and the staff working in hospitals". A flight of the Mahan Air landed in New Delhi on Wednesday morning with Indian passengers, mostly Shia pilgrims from Ladakh who were stranded in Iran, official sources told IANS. But police said many defied warnings by health officials to stay home and avoid crowds by heading to the Caspian coast, a favorite destination during the Nowruz holidays.

Seeking to contain the virus, Tehran has taken several measures, including the closure of all schools and higher education institutions, calling off sports events, and banning government officials from leaving the country.

Iran's democratic coalition of opposition organisations has claimed that the actual number of coronavirus casualties in the Islamic republic is much higher than what the theocratic regime in Tehran has revealed.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, in honour of the Iranian new year today, state television reported.

Rouhani reviewed what he referred to as achievements previous year.

Teheran has called for the release of about several dozen Iranians held in U.S. prisons, mostly for violating sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Khamenei added that the peak of those incidents was the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq on January 3.

Unlike in his usual fiery speeches, the anti-U.S. hardliner Khamenei refrained from attacking Iran's longtime foe in his remarks.

Iran also is not in its favour.

In November, fuel price increases imposed by the government triggered nationwide protests that were violently suppressed with the loss of at least 300 lives, according to Amnesty International.

Iran's top leader will pardon 10,000 more prisoners in an apparent effort to combat the coronavirus, state TV reported on March 19.

'Our nation has managed to reach its goals, despite difficulties ... "Iran will overcome the coronavirus with unity", Rohani said.

Pakistan closed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan weeks ago, but Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday asked authorities to allow trucks carrying food and other essential items to cross into landlocked Afghanistan, where infections are also on the rise.