Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday (March 22nd) his country would never accept any aid from the US to fight the novel coronavirus despite becoming a growing threat epicentre to world health with its increasing number of infected and its ill-advised policies in fighting the virus.
Iran has been one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 illness along with Italy, Spain and China, and the latest fatalities raised the official death toll to 1,812, the Health Ministry said Monday.
More than 1,411 new cases in the past 24 hours meant a total of 23,049 people had now tested positive for the virus, said ministry spokesman Kianouche Jahanpour.
US President Donald Trump said on February 29th that Washington was ready to help Iran fight the virus if its leaders requested it.
Speaking in a televised address, Khamenei rejected the American proposals, and spread a conspiracy theory that the offer of help was a cover for an effort to worsen the virus crisis in Iran.
Iran, like China and Russia, has been actively spreading conspiracy theories about the virus, further putting lives at risk by putting out false or misleading information.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Khamenei on Monday, saying his "lies" were putting the world at greater risk.
Pompeo accused Iran's airline Mahan Air of bringing in COVID-19 through its continued flights to China.
"The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits," Pompeo said.
Khamenei, instead of accepting help, appears to be placing the country's hopes on faith.
He advised Iranians that "everyone should follow the instructions" of the authorities to fight the epidemic "so that Almighty God will put an end to this calamity for the Iranian people, for all Muslim nations and for all mankind".
However, trust in the Iranian authorities is at an all time low.
Since the outbreak in Iran began, international concern has been growing over the Iranian regime's lack of transparency in delivering accurate information to the public as the uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak in the country threatens neighbouring countries and beyond.
Despite being one of the worst hit countries in the world with the virus, Iran has not enforced isolation measures, as most other countries have.
Peculiarly, the numbers of reported new cases and deaths pale compared to those in countries that have imposed much more stringent methods at controlling the virus.
Italy, for instance, which has some of the strictest restrictions of movement in place, is seeing staggering numbers, approaching 800 new dead and 5,000 new infected each day.
Other details suggest the official numbers coming from Tehran are grossly under-reporting the truth.
The Iranian Red Crescent, for instance, said Friday (March 20th) that about three million residents have fled the 13 most virus-affected provinces by road since March 17th, exponentially spreading the virus to other parts of the country.
Jahanpour, the Health Ministry spokesman, wrote them off as "a minority who did not follow the guidelines".
Satellite images and on-the-ground videos have discovered Iranian authorities digging 100-metre-long trenches in a cemetery in Qom to serve as mass graves for victims of the virus.
Other government statements have not helped the Iranian regime's perception problems.
"Some ask why the government is not intervening, but I think we have intervened significantly," President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks last week.
"Great things have been done [including] measures no other country has taken," he said, flanked by ministers wearing face masks.