Coronavirus: Freed US detainee in Iran has Covid-19 symptoms

Michael White was released from prison on medical grounds last week but has returned to hospital

This photo provided courtesy of the White family, shows U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Mashhad, Iran. Two Americans imprisoned in the Middle East have been released. Iran has granted a medical furlough to U.S. Navy veteran Michael White as part of its efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, and a Lebanese judge orderrs the release of Amer Fakhoury because more than 10 years had passed since the crimes he was accused of committing.  (Courtesy of the White Family via AP)

A former US serviceman released from an Iranian jail last week on medical grounds has been admitted to hospital with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, his spokesman said.

Michael White, who has been in jail since 2018 accused of insulting the supreme leader, was taken to a hospital ward crowded with coronavirus patients suffering from shortness of breath and a high fever, Jonathan Franks, his family spokesman said.

He has been tested for the virus but the results have not yet come back.

“Michael is an immuno-compromised cancer patient and his situation is urgent,” the statement said.

He and Iranian-British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were among some 85,000 prisoners temporarily freed by the regime as it battles to curb the devastating spread of coronavirus.

Under the terms of his temporary release from prison, Mr White, 48, is not allowed to leave Iran but Bill Richardson, a former governor of the US state of New Mexico, has contacted senior Iranian officials to try to get him flown out of the country.

“Not only will this allow Michael to receive additional treatment here in the United States, but it will help protect Iranian citizens from further exposure and free up their own medical personnel to treat their own citizens,” Mr White’s family spokesman said.

Iran has the sixth highest number of reported cases of the virus globally with more than 29,000 cases and a death toll of 2,234 – a tenth of the global total.

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