MSF building inflatable hospital in Iran for critical coronavirus patients

The international medical NGO has dispatched the facility and a specialist team to help the country bring the crisis under control

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Medecins Sans Frontieres is establishing a 50-bed inflatable coronavirus clinic in the Iranian city of Isfahan after a belated request for assistance from Tehran, the international medical organisation said on Sunday.

Iran’s death toll has reached 1,685 with 129 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry’s spokesman told state TV on Sunday.

Kianush Jahanpur said the number of infected people in Iran had reached 21,638.


“There were 1,028 new confirmed infected cases in the past 24 hours ... and 7,913 people have recovered,” he said.

The inflatable hospital to treat critically ill patients was shipped from France and an emergency team of nine will run the unit alongside local medical staff, said MSF, whose name means ‘doctors without borders’ in English.

MSF’s representative in Iran, Julie Reverse, said: “Iran is by far the hardest-hit country in the region, and Isfahan the second-worst affected province. We hope our assistance will relieve at least some of the pressure on the local health system.

“We heard the Iranian authorities’ calls for more support to help them cope with the outbreak and, as a medical organisation already present in the country, we offered to help with what we believe can provide the most value: assisting with treating the most severe cases.”

MSF also has teams in Italy – Europe’s hardest-hit country – and is supporting teams in Spain, France and Belgium to help detect and manage cases of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

France is already contributing to a package of medical aid for Iran alongside Britain and Germany, amid signs that the global fight against the coronavirus could help ease diplomatic tension.

Tehran freed a French academic in a prisoner swap last week in which an Iranian engineer jailed in France was also released.

Iran has struggled to stop the spread of the coronavirus after appearing to deny the spread and its severity in the early days of the crisis back in February.

But it has hit the country of 81 million people hard and left dozens of senior officials, including the deputy health ministry spokesman Iraj Harirchi, battling Covid-19.

Several senior government officials have also died. The disease killed Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi, described as a close confidant of Ayatollah Khamenei. Hadi Khosroshahi, Iran’s former ambassador to the Vatican, and Ahmad Tuyserkani, an adviser to Iran’s judiciary chief, also died, as did several politicians and a member of the country’s Assembly of Experts.