Ex-health insurance chiefs propose quarantining cities, Health Ministry rejects

March 23, 2020 - 1:26

TEHRAN - A number of former directors of the Health Insurance Organization have written a letter to President Hassan Rouhani urging quarantining cities and limiting traffic between cities to contain the pandemic coronavirus disease.

In their letter published by IRNA on Sunday, they said if an immediate measure is not taken to strictly limit traffic in cities and inter-cities, Iran will most likely face many problems at the end of the calendar month of Farvardin (April 19).

In their letter, they warned that if such a decision is not taken, the people's health will be endangered and the country's executive system will face problems in future months.

They called on the government to use the experience of other countries who have succeeded to tame the disease and adopt the strategy of quarantining the cities and force people to stay at home.

Such steps, they said, will significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Among those signing the letter are Mohammad-Reza Shams Ardakani, Ahmad Khaleq-Nejad Tabari, and Mohammad Baqher Hedavand.

However, in a press conference on Sunday, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour rejected the proposal and said such a suggestion is equal to a "martial law" which is neither possible nor favorable.

Jahanpour said Iran is implementing "level 3" quarantine in cities.

"Level 3 quarantine is being implemented. What the critics say... is the enforcement of martial law which is not possible and has social, economic and security repercussions," the spokesman stated.

He also argued the consequences of such a step are much higher than the costs of the coronavirus itself.

The Health Ministry official claimed countries that have locked down cities have not necessarily achieved a desirable result.

He added that level 3 quarantine is underway and "level 4" quarantine cannot be implemented "in our country".

Meanwhile, a source at the presidential office rejected claims by former health minister Ghazizadeh Hashemi that he at the beginning of the calendar month of Dey (Dec.22-Jan.20) had proposed solutions to senior officials, including the president and Health Ministry officials, on how to deal with the issue.

Writing on his Instagram, Ghazizadeh said his suggestions have so far gone "unnoticed" by the officials.

The source at the presidential office says the date that the former health minister is talking about is when the disease was just emerging in Wuhan, China.