Coronavirus: Dh1 million in aid flown from Dubai to Iran to tackle outbreak

The World Health Organisation sent 7.5 tonnes of protective equipment and sanitisers to Tehran

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Emergency medical supplies were flown from Dubai to Iran on Monday to help doctors stem the spread of coronovirus.

A flight took off from Dubai World Central for Tehran carrying 7.5 tonnes of equipment.

The UAE-backed operation was arranged by the World Health Organisation from International Humanitarian City.

Iran's death toll stood at 54 on Monday with more than 970 confirmed cases.

We are struggling to get access to enough... all supplies are being consolidated here in Dubai and being distributed equally among our 80 member states

Protective gloves, respiratory masks and surgical gowns are needed to support about 15,000 healthcare workers providing care to viral hot spots in the country. Tablets and computer equipment were also sent to help the authorities monitor the spread of Covid-19.

“Increasing their access to these kind of supplies will improve their chances of controlling the virus," said Robert Blanchard, team leader for WHO emergency operations at Humanitarian City.

“That is the same message across all member states, to help them control the virus to the greatest extent possible.”

European standard FFP2 "duckbill" face masks are among protective equipment for medics. The masks have the same level of particulate filter as N95 surgical masks, but will be used only by medics in hospitals owing  to a global shortage.

“We are not yet at the pandemic stage,” said Mr Blanchard.

“In terms of fear of the virus, there is a lot we do not know yet so we are actively working with other organisations to develop a vaccine and increase access to protective equipment.

“We do not know how many people may have the virus, but have not yet succumbed to symptoms or who have recovered within a few days.”

Reagent lab equipment used to detect the virus, disinfectant, hand sanitisers and other N95 surgical masks recommended for high-risk patients were also flown out. The equipment is worth about $300,000 (Dh1.1 million).


The public is being advised not to buy protective masks, because they are affecting  supplies needed for healthcare workers providing frontline care, or potential super-spreaders.

The WHO can reach two thirds of the world’s population from Dubai, although supplies of face masks are fast running out as people around the world panic buy and stockpile masks.

“We are struggling to get access to enough supplies, so the WHO is working at a global level to increase access to protective equipment,” said Mr Blanchford.

“All supplies are being consolidated here in Dubai and being distributed equally among our 80 member states.

“The manufacturing plants are not producing as much as before the virus and there are issues with the supply chain due to the lockdown in areas of China.

“Hopefully this will improve as fewer cases are recorded there.

“There is a backlog in the global shipping supply chain so that is also creating a problem with distributing protective equipment.

“Our goal is to reduce the spread and contain the outbreak as much has possible.”

So far, more than 40 countries have been sent help from the WHO to contain the virus.

If a nation under international trade sanctions, like Iran, cannot procure this kind of protective equipment it becomes reliant on organisations like the WHO.

As a result, the WHO has special dispensation to ship emergency supplies into Iran.

It will be the second emergency shipment sent to Iran from Dubai this year.

“We are in direct contact with our WHO representative in Iran, who is fully aware of all the local approvals required,” said Nevien Attalla, operations manager at WHO in Dubai.

“They are waiting for clearance and have permission to receive the charter flight.

“The items cannot be moved without all these permissions from the Ministry of Health and Prevention and police being in place.

“It is a very challenging operation to send shipments to Iran, but the UAE has been very supportive.”