DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Appearing before the cameras coughing and sweating profusely, the man leading Iran’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak promised it was of no danger to his country. “Quarantines belong to the Stone Age,” Iraj Harirchi insisted. A day later, he himself would be in quarantine from the virus. Harirchi’s story is a microcosm of what has happened in Iran amid the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly nine out of 10 cases in the Middle East come from the Islamic Republic, which has reported over 16,000 people infected and at least 988 deaths amid fears that cases may still be underreported. While most people who are infected recover, the virus spreads rapidly and can kill the elderly and those with breathing problems or other underlying illnesses. Days of denials gave the virus time to spread in Iran as the country marked the 41st anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution with mass demonstrations and then held a parliamentary election in which authorities desperately sought to boost turnout. Now, state television warns the virus could kill “millions” as its supreme leader issued a religious order Tuesday banning “unnecessary travel.” Although Iran has one of the Mideast’s best medical services, its


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