Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech on state television for the Persian New Year, praised Iranians for their “dazzling” sacrifices in fighting the coronavirus outbreak in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said it had been a tumultuous year for Iranians who have endured U.S. sanctions, floods, and the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,400 people in Iran and infected nearly 20,000.
“These acts of sacrifice were made by medical groups, physicians, nurses, assistants, managers and the staff working in hospitals,” said Khamenei, who looked healthy despite rumors that he had been infected with the new coronavirus.
Officials close to Khamenei, contacted by Reuters on Wednesday, denied the rumors.
Nowruz, or “new day” in Persian, is an ancient celebration and the most important date in the calendar, when families gather and exchange gifts. But the coronavirus has overshadowed the celebrations.
“Last year was a tumultuous year for the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “It was a year that began with the floods and that ended with the coronavirus...but we will overcome all hardships with unity.”
He named the new year: “The year of boosting production”.