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Jakarta Post

Indonesian students in Iran brace for escalating health crisis amid COVID-19 outbreak

  • Rizki Fachriansyah
    Rizki Fachriansyah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, March 2, 2020   /   01:13 pm
Indonesian students in Iran brace for escalating health crisis amid COVID-19 outbreak Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran February 27, 2020. Picture taken February 27, 2020. ( REUTERS/WANA (West Asia News Agency) )

Indonesian university students in Iran are bracing for an escalating public health crisis as the Islamic republic begins to take measures to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak that has impacted everyday life in the country.

Ali Rido, a postgraduate theology student at the Al-Mustafa International University in Qom, said the streets seemed relatively deserted as a number of shops and schools in the city had been closed because of the viral outbreak. Apart from that, however, city life was “normal”, he said.

“The government has yet to order any mass quarantine efforts like those in Wuhan, China, but madrassa [Islamic schools] were already closed and have since moved their activities online,” the Lampung native told The Jakarta Post via text message on Sunday.

He went on to say that the Indonesian Embassy in Tehran had periodically issued warnings regarding the outbreak through its social media channels but had yet to announce any evacuation plans.

“The Indonesian Embassy has given us health advice, specifically on how to prevent coronavirus infection. The embassy has also provided us with supplies of facemasks, since the items are difficult to find lately at local pharmacies,” Ali said, adding that Iranian authorities had also urged residents to stay at home during the outbreak.

A spokesperson of the Indonesian Embassy in Tehran told the Post that it would continue to monitor developments in Iran while it awaited further instruction from Indonesian envoy Octavian Alimudin. None of the Indonesian nationals currently living in Iran were among the confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the embassy.

There are around 350 Indonesian students in Iran, according to the head of the Indonesian Student Association in Iran, Muhammad Zaky Fathoni.

Read also: Jokowi announces Indonesia’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases

The Iranian government had yet to declare a state of emergency, Zaky said.

“So far, the authorities in Iran have only called on locals and foreigners alike to maintain a healthy lifestyle, limit outdoor activities and avoid crowds,” he told the Post.

As reported by Reuters, Iran has seen the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus outside of China, where the deadly virus first emerged.

Pilgrims wash their hands before entering Imam Reza holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran February 27, 2020. Picture taken February 27, 2020.Pilgrims wash their hands before entering Imam Reza holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran February 27, 2020. Picture taken February 27, 2020. ( REUTERS/WANA (West Asia News Agency) )

Several of countries in the Gulf region have confirmed cases of infection among people who recently traveled to Iran.

Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a live TV broadcast on Sunday that the country’s death toll from the coronavirus had reached 54 while the number of people infected had reached 978.

“There were 385 new cases of infected people in the last 24 hours, increasing the total number to 978. The death toll is 54,” spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said, as quoted by Reuters.

The Iranian government has announced plans to establish around 300,000 public health teams that will be tasked with performing door-to-door coronavirus screening starting on Tuesday, according to Jahanpur.