On March 10, 2020, Channel 2 (Iran) aired a discussion about the coronavirus outbreak in Iran. Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian, the Deputy Speaker of Iran's Majles, said that the outbreak should have been handled with force and resolve from day one, that the city of Qom should have been quarantined immediately similarly to how China quarantined the province from which coronavirus originated, that President Rouhani should be leading Iran's Anti-Coronavirus National Headquarters, which he said is currently not being run in an organized fashion, and that the resources made available for fighting the outbreak are insufficient. IRGC General Gholamreza Jalali, the Head of Iran's Civil Defense Organization, said that he had stated in February that the situation in Iran was routine because the outbreak hadn't been detected yet, that coronavirus has many of the characteristics of a biological weapon, and that the United States has many biological labs in the region surrounding Iran that may be responsible for the spread of the virus.
Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian: "From day one, I thought that we should deal with this with all our force. Qom should have been quarantined from day one. Along with the civil defense... We should have acted with resolve in this matter. We should not have let it spread all over the country.
"What China did... After all, it was just one province that could have infected China in its entirety and caused a catastrophe. China acted with resolve and quarantined the entire area. It solved the problem of the disease and was ready to take additional measures. If you want, we can talk about that also."
Host: "Thank you, let's move on. Mr. Jalali, let me take you back to February 13. On this very show, you stated that according to the estimates of the Civil Defense Organization, the situation in the country is 'white' [i.e. routine]. Merely a few days later, things turned out differently. Why did this happen?"
Gen. Gholamreza Jalali: "We had meetings with various labs on February 13 and before then. None of the reference labs confirmed the existence of the corona disease in our country. A 'white' situation means that the disease was not officially confirmed. It may have been present somewhere, but we could not identify it."
Host: "Mr. Jalali, many people have speculated that the coronavirus is a bioterrorism weapon. What is the view of the Civil Defense Organization about this?"
Jalali: "One cannot say for certain that this is biological warfare, but it has many of the relevant characteristics and traits. We need more time to complete [our assessment]."
Host: "So to a large extent, the theory that this is biological warfare is close to the truth, in your opinion, and the [virus] has many of the necessary characteristics?"
Jalali: "It has many of the characteristics of biological warfare."
Host: "Even thought it affected China, America, and the Europeans?"
Jalali: "Look, I have a map here..."
Host: "Please point the camera to it."
Jalali: "This is a map of America's biological labs around us. They surround Iran, Russia, and China. We are talking about 25 BSL-4-level labs that have the capability to research and analyze such a group of dangerous viruses – novel viruses and airborne viruses. So this can show us which country has the capability... Obviously, it's not just America. China and Russia also have such capabilities. But this shows you the prevalence of American labs around us. It illustrates their locations and their capabilities. In addition, these labs are under no inspection."
Host: "The Health Minister said that we have a problem buying masks and medical equipment."
Pezeshkian: "This is because the person in charge is not leading."
Host: "You mean the head of the [Anti-Corona National] Headquarters?"
Pezeshkian: "Legally speaking, the head in this case is the President. There is no one else.
"The law says that the head of the government should assume responsibility and deal with this. Everybody's health is in danger now. You let the [Health] Ministry deal with it, and the other ministers and officials comply if they want and don't comply if they don't want."
Host: "Are people really doing as they please in the [Anti-Corona National] Headquarters?"
Pezeshkian: "This is the case at the moment. How much money has been allocated to the Health Ministry to deal with this? Has it been given any money at all?"
Host: "Who knows..."
Pezeshkian: "Exactly. We summoned the [Health] Minister to see why this was not done. He said that he had begged for 2,500 nursing positions but was denied. He is fighting and we do not authorize him more personnel... He is fighting and we do not give him the means. Our doctors and nurses on the ground become ill one after another..."
Host: "What about the meetings Mr. Rouhani called with several ministers..."
Pezeshkian: "Look, a crisis is a crisis. We need to invest everything in dealing with... Our economy is in crisis."
Host: "Let's stay focused..."
Pezeshkian: "I am. If you are on the wrong path, you will not get the right result as long as you remain on it."