"The US' sanctions regime has severely impacted the access that Iranians have to life-saving medical supplies and will most likely hamper the Islamic Republic's ability to respond to the coronavirus efficiently," Naveed Mansoori, a co-editor of online Middle East magazine Jadaliyya's Iran Page, told Newsweek, Presstv Reported.
Commenting on the US sanctions amid the spread of the coronavirus, Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of public relations and information center of the Iranian Ministry of Health, criticized the US for targeting imports of medicine and medical equipment to Iran.
“There is a false claim that they say that the medicines, food and drugs are not under sanctions. On paper it is like that, but in practice we are under sanctions for medical items given the restrictions for banking transactions; we have problems in procuring medical equipment and medicines,” he told Press TV in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
“We meet most part of our needs for medicines inside the country … but the medical sanctions have … created some problems in terms of financial transactions” as the US bans have targeted imports of certain medicine and medical equipment to Iran, he added.
The official said, “There are some foreign companies … telling us because of US pressure we are not able to send you any kind of items, including medical items,” saying the US approach was against international regulations.
The US returned its sanctions against Iran in 2018 after leaving a historic nuclear accord -- officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- signed between Iran and major world powers. The measures defied the agreement’s multilateral nature and the fact that it had been ratified by the United Nations Security Council.
Washington then began forcing other parties to toe its sanctions line. The three European signatories to the deal -- Britain, France, and Germany -- have stopped their transactions with the Islamic Republic, bowing under the pressure.
While the State Department has said that the US sanctions do not include humanitarian goods, some companies have proved unwilling to export even critical supplies for fear of triggering a US government backlash.
However, recurrent reports have suggested that Iranian patients have suffered as a result of restrictions imposed by the US on export of certain medication into Iran.
This comes as Iran is battling the deadly coronavirus, which has so far taken 19 lives across the country and infected as many as 139 others, most of them in Qom, according to the figures released on Wednesday by Jahanpour.
In addition to inhibiting Iran's ability to battle the new coronavirus, Newsweek reported that the US sanctions have also hurt citizens' ability to access information regarding the coronavirus and its proliferation.
Article 19 -- a London-based organization that defends and promotes freedom of expression and information around the world -- said Monday that Iranians were unable to access Johns Hopkins University's real-time coronavirus database because of US-imposed economic restrictions, not Iranian government censorship.
Iran cyber police arrest 24 over coronavirus rumors
Meanwhile, the head of Iran's cyberspace police said on Wednesday that 24 people have been arrested for rumor-mongering about the spread of the virus, according to ISNA.
Brigadier General Vahid Majid said the cyber police was fully monitoring all the news items published on websites and would take action over news, pictures or videos that contain “rumors or fake news” meant to “disturb the public and increase concern in the society.”