Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has unveiled what it claims is new technology which will change the face of its response to the coronavirus crisis.
There’s just one problem – the “state of the art” Covid-19 detector bears a striking resemblance to fake bomb scanners that have plagued the Middle East and other parts of the world for years.
The country's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported the device had been developed by Iranian scientists and had the ability to detect the novel coronavirus on people and on surfaces at a range of up to 100 meters.
The detector, IRGC commander Major General Hossein Salami claimed, can detect contamination with 80 per cent accuracy in five seconds by “creating a magnetic field”.
He was quoted describing the scanner as “amazing” and “state of the art”, though the exact relationship between the Covid-19 pathogen and magnets was not explained.
Media monitoring outlets and analysts quickly debunked the IRGC’s claims about the Covid-19 detector. They have said the device shown in the IRGC’s unveiling and being tested in an Iranian hospital clearly resembles a variety of fake detectors sold by British fraudsters in the last decade.
Those scanners later went on to be used in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia. The devices, like the Iranian Covid-19 detector, all had a conspicuous silver antenna that swivelled on a handle and came in black padded casing.
Used to check for suicide bombers in Iraq, to search for drugs in central America and to detect smuggled ivory in Africa all of the devices were bogus and were sold at a huge financial and human cost.
Their purveyors James McCormick, Gary Bolton and Samuel and Joan Tree have all been jailed for selling the so-called “magic wands”.
The danger presented by the detectors in the era of coronavirus is clear. The IRGC claimed its device negates the need for blood tests to diagnose Covid-19 infections and will speed up the process of cleaning surfaces covered in the virus.
Tasnim has reported the device is to be used in widespread screening.
The appearance of the scanner has provoked splits among authorities in Iran. While the IRGC has doubled down on the device heralding it as a “scientific breakthrough”, Tehran’s ministry of health has said the scanner does not have its approval.
“Many of these efforts have been made, but the cases that have received final approval have been very few,” health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said on Wednesday.
The Iranian government has been left scrambling to respond to the coronavirus outbreak which has struck down many of the country’s most senior officials.
The country has been the hit hardest in the region by the virus with its death toll reaching 4,869 on Thursday. The country also has nearly 78,000 confirmed cases.