The crisis is piling added pressure on Iran, which was already struggling under the burden of fresh economic sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump targeting Iranian oil exports. Dr Anicee Van Engeland, senior lecturer in International Security at Cranfield University, was talking as the official death toll in Iran passed the 4,000 mark, with 67,286 confirmed cases – although the actual figures are widely believed to be much higher in both instances.
She suggested Iran’s difficulties had been exacerbated by Mr Rohani’s muddled response as the situation began to escalate.
She said: “It is unlikely that the COVID 19 threat will be eradicated in the short-term, and even the medium-term.
“The authorities were reluctant to impose a lockdown and only did it a few days go.
“They wasted precious time. This delay was due to the lack of legitimacy the authorities have now and the fear of being publicly ignored by the population, which would undermine them even further.”
Economic factors also came into play, she explained, adding: “It is very difficult to impose a lockdown on a people that lives under sanctions: how would people earn their income? And Iran doesn’t have the capacity to bail anyone out.
In addition, the measures introduced to try and control the spread of the disease have not been well received.