Iran said to expel Doctors Without Borders team that came to fight virus
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Iran said to expel Doctors Without Borders team that came to fight virus

Assistant to Iranian health minister tweets country doesn’t need ‘foreign forces’ to set up hospital beds; aid group had planned field unit for 50 patients

A woman wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus walks past shoe shops in a mostly empty street in a commercial district in downtown Tehran, Iran, March 22, 2020. (Vahid Salemi/AP)
A woman wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus walks past shoe shops in a mostly empty street in a commercial district in downtown Tehran, Iran, March 22, 2020. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Iran has reportedly kicked out a team from the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders that arrived to set up a field hospital amid an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that has already killed at least 1,800 people in the country.

Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister, tweeted his thanks Monday to the international medical organization, known by its French acronym MSF, but noted the country does “not have a need for hospital beds set up by foreign forces,” the Saudi Al-Arabiya network reported.

On Monday the Geneva-headquartered MSF said in a statement it was in the process of setting up a 50-bed inflatable treatment unit staffed by nine emergency workers in Isfahan, the second-worst-hit province in Iran. The equipment was airlifted from France and was supposed to have been installed on the grounds of the Amin Hospital in Isfahan.

“We hope our assistance will relieve at least some of the pressure on the local health system,” Julie Reversé, MSF’s representative in Iran, said in the statement. “We heard the Iranian authorities’ calls for more support to help them cope with the outbreak and, as a medical organization already present in the country, we offered to help with what we believe can provide the most value: assisting with treating the most severe cases.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said Sunday his country would never accept any aid to fight the novel coronavirus from the United States, which he called “charlatans.”

Speaking in a televised address, Khamenei charged in a message directed at Washington: “No one trusts you. You are capable of bringing into our country a drug that will keep the virus alive and prevent its eradication.”

US President Donald Trump — who has stepped up sanctions and a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran over its nuclear program — said on February 29 that Washington was ready to help Iran fight the virus if its leaders requested it.

But Khamenei reiterated Iran’s rejection, charging that Washington, which whom it has had no diplomatic relations for more than 40 years, was “capable” of wanting to intensify the epidemic in the Islamic Republic.

As of Tuesday morning, there have been 1,812 deaths in Iran from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with 23,049 confirmed cases, according to World Health Organization figures.

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