A senior Iranian official has slammed China for misleading the world about the real risks of COVID-19 sparking a war of words between the two countries.
Kianuch Jahanpur, spokesman for Iran’s ministry of health, called the statistics presented by the Chinese authorities a “bitter joke” which led to world governments initially downplaying its threat.
He also suggested that China misled other countries into believing the virus was relatively mild and similar to influenza with a similar death rate.
Jahanpur, who is also a doctor, wrote on Twitter: “If in China they say an epidemic was controlled in two months, one should really think about it.
“Based on the epidemiological information and reports provided by Chinese researchers, 11 academic centres in the world [initially] considered the novel coronavirus to be less dangerous than at least type-A influenza. Today’s findings prove it wrong. And we trust our own findings more.”
Jahanpur’s tweet prompted a number of Iranian officials to voice their anger over his remarks to avoid a potential diplomatic fallout with China.
China’s ambassador to Tehran Chang Hua said: “The Chinese Ministry of Health has a press conference every day. I suggest that you read their news carefully in order to draw conclusions.”
Jahanpur responded by saying that it “would be useful for honourable ambassadors and the media in all countries, particularly in friendly countries”, to follow the Iranian health ministry’s daily press conferences.
It is believed the Chinese embassy then complained about Jahanpur’s remarks, prompting Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Sayed Abbas Mousavi to post a tweet praising China, according to local media.
He wrote: “The Chinese bravery, dedication and professionalism in Covid-19 containment deserve acknowledgement.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always been thankful to China in these trying times.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador to China, Mohammed Keshavarzzadeh, recently announced that China had sent 28 aid packages to Iran.
The aid included face masks, ventilators, gloves and testing kits.
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