04:05 GMT03 April 2020
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    With nearly 14,000 confirmed cases and more than 700 deaths, Iran has been one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19. The country’s medical response to the crisis has been complicated by crippling US sanctions, which have led to shortages of basic medical equipment, including protective facemasks.

    Iran’s health authorities have screened over 10 million people for symptoms of the new coronavirus over a four-day period, Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeisi has revealed.

    “6.5 million individuals were screened at health centres, and 3.7 million others via the online platform,” Raeisi said in an address, his remarks quoted by PressTV.

    Iran launched a new online system, salamat.gov.ir, late last week, allowing people to self-test for coronavirus by answering a number of questions regarding their symptoms, such as fever, chills, dry cough, sore throat and shortness of breath, with the hope being that such self-assessment can prevent the needless spread of the virus in medical facilities. If coronavirus is suspected, medical professionals are required to carry out follow-up assessment and assistance to affected individuals.

    According to Raeisi, health center tests and self-testing led to the discovery of some 900 cases of COVID-19, with these individuals hospitalized. The official said the northwestern province of Gilan, which borders on the Caspian Sea, has tested of some 76 percent of the province’s entire population amid a particularly high concentration of coronavirus cases there.

    With some 13,938 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of this writing, including 724 deaths, Iran has some of the highest infection and fatality rates in the world. On Sunday, Iran’s health ministry reported that over 100 people had succumbed to the virus in a 24 hour period. On Monday, the ministry said it had discovered a total of 1,053 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. A total of 4,590 Iranians have made a complete recovery.

    On Sunday, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht blasted the Trump administration for its “adversarial and inhumane” attitude toward Iran’s plight amid continued US sanctions pressure against the country. The US, Nobakht complained, was “not even abandoning their medical sanctions against Iran under these tough circumstances,” adding that Washington was continuing to make it impossible for Iran to sell its oil to buy medical equipment, with multiple senior Iranian officials urging sanctions to be eased to allow medical supplies in. In a bid to help last week, Russia shipped 50,000 COVID-19 test kits to Iran. The US, meanwhile, moved to extend sanctions against Iran’s oil sector. On Monday, China called on sanctions against Iran to be lifted "immediately" to "avoid further damage to the Iranian economy and people's lives."

    Iran’s COVID-19 infection rate has been unusually high among senior officials, with well over a dozen officials succumbing to the virus in recent months, and some 8 percent of the country’s parliament, the consultative assembly, infected. On Friday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suggested that he received evidence to suggest that the pandemic may have been a man-made “biological attack.” Khamenei’s comments came on the heels of remarks by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman suggesting that the US military may have unleashed COVID-19 in Wuhan, China late last year. The state department summoned China’s ambassador to Washington on Friday over the allegations.

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