Voices on the other end of the line cut in and out due to a poor phone connection as officials at the Red Cross Society of China’s headquarters in Beijing attempted to talk to staff members on the ground in Iran on Tuesday morning.
As the signal stabilised, the latest developments in controlling the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in Teheran streamed into a conference room packed with Red Cross managers.
Zhou Xiaohang, head of a five-member team－four medics and a Farsi interpreter sent to assist with COVID-19 control in Iran－said Iranians are increasingly taking precautions such as wearing face masks and washing their hands more often.
But he said the progress has been hampered by a severe shortage of medical supplies.
Zhou, whose team arrived in Teheran on Feb 29 at the invitation of the Red Crescent Society of Iran, the Iranian version of the Red Cross, implored headquarters to supply more face masks and protective gowns.
“Face mask prices are rising,” he said, adding that protective gowns are in short supply.
In response, Red Cross Chairman Chen Zhu, who is also a senior legislator, told Zhou and his teammates to make a list of the most urgently needed supplies and deliver it to the Chinese embassy in Teheran.
“Hopefully, supplies will reach you as early as Thursday, when a Mahan Air flight will depart Shanghai for Teheran,” he said.
The exchanges on Tuesday showed the humanitarian group’s efforts to help Iran introduce the type of containment measures that worked in China.
According to Iran’s health authorities, the country added 595 new infections on Monday, bringing its total to 7,161 spread across all of Iran’s 31 provinces.
Chen said the expert teams sent to Iran were tasked with helping their Iranian counterparts contain the virus with accurate and effective quarantine measures.
Chen said an example would be China’s sweeping effort to identify four types of people－confirmed cases, their close contacts, suspected cases and fever patients with pneumonia-like symptoms. They were sent to different facilities such as temporary hospitals and hotel rooms.
He suggested arranging a teleconference between top Chinese experts and their Iranian counterparts in an effort to enhance their consensus on virus control.
Chen also said that colleagues in China will help organise documents showing how Chinese traditional medicines have worked in containing the outbreak, which will help Iranians better understand the therapies.