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Coronavirus pandemic: Iran's president says economy is a factor in COVID-19 response

Hassan Rouhani said the government had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran's beleaguered economy, which is under heavy U.S. sanctions.

March 29, 2020 / 05:09 PM IST

Iran's president on March 29 lashed out at criticism of its lagging response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East as a "political war" saying he had to weigh protecting the economy while tackling the pandemic.

Hassan Rouhani said the government had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran's beleaguered economy, which is under heavy U.S. sanctions.

"It's a dilemma playing out across the globe, as leaders struggle to strike a balance between containing the pandemic and preventing their economies from crashing."

"Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us" Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting. "We must put these principles together to reach a final decision. This is not the time to gather followers" he added.

"This is not a time for political war." Even before the pandemic, Rouhani was under fire for the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear deal he concluded with the United States and other world powers.

President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement and has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran that prevent it from selling oil on international markets.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Iran reported another 139 deaths on March 28, pushing the total number of fatalities to 2,517 amid 35,408 confirmed cases. Most people suffer only minor symptoms, such as fever and coughing, and recover within a few weeks. But the virus can cause severe illness and death, especially in elderly patients or those with underlying health problems.

It is highly contagious, and can be spread by those showing no symptoms.

In recent days, Iran has ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lock-downs.

Many Iranians are still flouting orders to stay home in what could reflect widespread distrust of authorities. Iran has urged the international community to lift sanctions and is seeking a USD 5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Elsewhere in the region, Qatar reported its first death from the new coronavirus late on March 28, saying the total number of reported cases there was at least 590.

The tiny, energy-rich nation said it flew 31 Bahrainis stranded in Iran into Doha on a state-run Qatar Airways flight.  But since Bahrain is one of four Arab countries that has been boycotting Qatar in a political dispute since 2017, Doha said it could not fly the 31 onward to the island kingdom.

Bahraini officials have said they will send a flight for them at some undefined point in the future, the Qatari government said in a statement.

Bahrain said it planned a flight on March 29 to pick up the stranded passengers.

The kingdom said it had its own repatriation flights scheduled for those still stuck in Iran and warned Qatar that it should stop interfering with these flights.
PTI
first published: Mar 29, 2020 05:09 pm

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