Common Dreams - March 13, 2020

"Among those in Iran who have been unable to get critical medications have been patients with leukemia, epidermolysis bullosa, epilepsy, and chronic eye injuries from exposure to chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. Now coronavirus is added to that list."

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is far from the first proof of how intertwined we are as a global community. The climate crisis and the refugee crisis have long been glaring examples that the wars or CO2 emissions on one continent risk the lives and well-being of people on another continent. What coronavirus is providing, however, is a unique opportunity to look specifically at how the intentional damage caused to one country’s healthcare system can make it harder for the entire world to address a pandemic.

The coronavirus started in China in December 2019 and President Donald Trump immediately brushed it off as something limited to China. At the end of January 2020, he banned entry to the United States of people from China but still insisted that the Americans need not worry. It will have “a very good ending for us,” he said, insisting that his administration had the situation “very well under control.”

Despite Trump’s insistence that the medical pandemics can be contained via travel bans and closed borders, the coronavirus knows no borders. ByJanuary 20, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand had all reported cases. On January 21, the U.S. confirmed the infection of a 30-year-old Washington State man who had just returned from Wuhan, China.

On February 19, Iran announced two cases of the coronavirus, reporting within hours that both patients had died. By March 13, at the time of this writing, the total number of coronavirus infections in Iran is at least 11,362 and at least 514 people in the country have died. Per capita, it is currently the most heavily infected country in the Middle East and third in the world, after Italy and South Korea.

In the Middle East, coronavirus cases have now been identified in Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Lebanon, Omar, and Egypt. If Iran is not able to stem the crisis, the virus will continue to spread throughout the Middle East and beyond.

By the time the coronavirus hit Iran on February 19, the country’s economy, including its healthcare system, had already been devastated by U.S. sanctions. Under the Obama administration, the Iranian economy was given a boost when the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 and the nuclear-related sanctions were lifted. By February 2016, Iran was shipping oil to Europe for the first time in three years. In 2017, foreign direct investment increased by nearly 50% and Iran’s imports expanded by nearly 40% over 2015-2017. ...
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