Iran Asks IMF for $5 Billion Loan as Coronavirus Toll Reaches 429
Several top political and administrative leaders in Iran have contracted the virus, and some have even died.
Iran said on Thursday, 12 March, that it had asked for an emergency loan of US $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that has swept across the country, infecting more than 10,000 people and killing hundreds, reported AP.
Iran's Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced in a now-daily televised news conference that 75 people had died in the past 24 hours and more than 1,000 new cases of infection had been confirmed, pushing the death toll to 429 and confirmed cases to 10,075.
In a tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the IMF to release the funds through the international lender's Rapid Financial Instrument mechanism.
Iran's Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati said he made the request for US $5 billion last week in a letter to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva. The IMF has said it stands ready to support countries battling the virus.
Iran Struggling to Counter Coronavirus
Zarif has urged countries to assist Iran with N95 face masks, ventilators, surgical gowns, testing kits and other needed medical supplies. The World Health Organization recently sent a shipment to Iran, including 1,100 virus testing kits that can test more than 105,000 people.
AP reported that Iran's economy has been battered by U.S. sanctions, which have choked Tehran's ability to sell its oil. The recent outbreak of the virus has compounded its economic woes, with all of Iran's neighbours closing their borders to Iranians and multiple nations cutting travel links with Iran, including shipping in some cases, which is affecting imports as well.
Countries in the region have imposed their own varying levels of travel restrictions, from wholesale halting of all commercial flights in Kuwait, to Saudi Arabia banning travel to 39 countries. Meanwhile, there's been a spike in cases in the Gulf Arab states, with most infected people either in Iran or having recently traveled there.
Multiple top officials in Iran — from its senior vice president to Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members, health workers and health ministry officials — have contracted the virus. Some of those officials have died.
There are concerns that the number of infections across Iran is much higher than the confirmed cases reported by the government, which is struggling to contain or manage its spread. The rising casualty figures each day in Iran suggest the fight against the new coronavirus is far from over.
Outside of Iran, only Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon have recorded deaths from the virus in the Middle East. Iran has one of the world's worst death tolls outside of China, the epicentre of the outbreak.
(With inputs from AP.)
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