March 13, 2020 / 12:46 PM / 18 days ago

Iran security forces to empty city streets to fight coronavirus

DUBAI (Reuters) - Security forces will empty the streets of cities across Iran in the next 24 hours in a drive to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, state television reported on Friday.

The move came as the World Health Organization (WHO) said Iran needed to do more to contain the disease. Tehran has recorded 514 people killed and 11,364 diagnosed infections, making Iran one of the worst affected countries outside China.

Iranian officials have repeatedly complained that many Iranians have ignored calls to stay home and avoid travel.

“Our law enforcement and security committees, along with the interior ministry and provincial governors, will be clearing shops, streets and roads,” state TV cited Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri as saying at a meeting about the virus. “This will take place in the next 24 hours.”

He did not make clear whether people would be arrested or simply told to go home.

On Thursday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked Bagheri to set up a body to lead the military’s efforts in fighting the coronavirus.

A WHO team that visited Iran said “solid work” was being done, especially in the areas of case management, laboratories, and risk communications.

“But more needs to be done. We agreed on several priority areas for scale-up with the national health authorities, based on informed experiences in China and elsewhere,” WHO team leader Dr Richard Brennan said in a statement.

The outbreak has infected a host of senior officials, politicians, doctors and clerics in Iran, several of whom, including an adviser to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have died from the coronavirus, according to state media.

Reporting by the Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Philippa Fletcher

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