An increasingly isolated Iran tries to control virus crisis

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran girded Wednesday for a long battle against the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly across the country and the wider Middle East, even though officials in the Islamic Republic had earlier minimized the outbreak that has now killed 19 people, the highest toll outside of China.

President Hassan Rouhani said there were no immediate plans to quarantine cities, but he acknowledged it may take “one, two or three weeks” to get control of the virus in Iran, which has been linked to most of the over 210 confirmed cases in the region.

“Containment of the COVID-19 virus within Iran will be a challenge because of Iran’s poor health infrastructure and traditional unwillingness to communicate freely and openly across all branches of government and between health institutions,” the Austin, Texas private intelligence firm Stratfor said.

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