COVID-19 is pushing the healthcare systems of even some of the world’s most developed states to the edge, with governments and medical professionals battling to prevent infections from rising every day.
Meanwhile, the threat to less-developed states is even greater, as dilapidated health systems in these countries means that unless stringent measures are taken, a disaster is likely.
Considering the situation, all states should be expected to put aside petty differences and combine forces against the coronavirus — a foe that knows no borders.
However, it is clear that some in the international community are bent upon enforcing measures that can only be described as cruel and inhuman in such times of global crisis.
The US, for example, has refused to ease sanctions on Iran despite the fact that the Islamic Republic is amongst the countries hardest hit by the virus.
“Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” Brian Hook, Washington’s point man for Iranian affairs, has said.
Even in normal circumstances it could be argued that American sanctions against Iran are wrong and unjustified.
But as Tehran grapples with a severe health crisis, there is absolutely no justification for the US to bully others in order to prevent help getting to Iranians.
There has been valid criticism, even from within the Iranian establishment, that the authorities were not being transparent about the number of infections and deaths.
Indeed, if the government had been more open about the situation it may have been easier to deal with it when Covid-19 first emerged.
However, for now this is an academic discussion; Iran needs urgent measures to combat the virus.
There have been some 1,500 deaths in the country, while the Iranian health ministry has said 50 people are being infected every hour.
Keeping this alarming situation in mind, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has urged world leaders to “show utmost compassion” and lift the sanctions against Iran.
Also China, where the outbreak started, has called for Iran to be given sanctions relief for humanitarian reasons.
America’s differences with Iran are geopolitical and ideological and go back decades.
However, at this time nations must move beyond such narrow considerations and think purely along humanitarian lines.
The dire situation in Iran demands that the world community work together to fight the contagion and let essential supplies into the country to save lives.
Politics can wait for another day.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2020