Iran has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the first cases of coronavirus were registered in February, the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 100,000, with more than 6,000 victims.
As the current Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates, local health issues have the potential to evolve into transnational challenges and full-fledged international security crises. This situation imposes once more a rethinking of the concept of security at the global level, bringing its nontraditional dimensions into the analysis.
The Covid-19 pandemic neither fostered cooperation nor eased US-Iran tensions that reached their peak in the wake of the US killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January. Instead, the virus has been weaponized by Washington and Tehran under the assumption that it could provide new opportunities to force the other party to review its policies.
The debate about sanctions and their humanitarian implications on populations at large came back into the limelight with the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic in Iran.
Iran has been the Middle Eastern epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Islamic Republic was hit early on into the global health crisis. While it is still unclear when and how Iran’s ‘patient zero’ entered the country, it is fair to assume that he or she was part of one of the numerous delegations that kept on traveling between Iran and China even after weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
Iran has been at the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Central and West Asia. By May 5th, the Iranian Health Commission had informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about 98647 cases and 6277 confirmed deaths in the country.
As Iran’s coronavirus pandemic recedes and its economy slowly reopens, the prospective health security of Iranians remains under the dual threat of a looming second wave of infections and an economy in its second consecutive year of contraction under one of the harshest sanctions regimes in history.
Iran ranks third, after Italy and China, for the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide. As of March 19, 1,284 people have died and 18,407 have been infected, according to the Iranian Ministry of Health. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, suspects the actual numbers could be five times higher.
While in 2019 tensions in the Gulf nearly came to the breaking point, 2020 may mark a turnaround (or at least a truce) in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.