A Navy veteran released from an Iranian prison last week on a medical furlough says he is sick with symptoms of the coronavirus and is requesting a humanitarian evacuation to the United States for medical treatment.
Michael White was hospitalized Wednesday in a ward for coronavirus patients in Iran and has experienced fever, fatigue, a cough and shortness of breath since his furlough last week, according to a statement from Jon Franks, a family spokesman said.
White, of Imperial Beach, California, ‘is an immunocompromised cancer patient and his situation is urgent,’ Franks said.
He has been tested for the coronavirus but the results have not come back. According to the Twitter account Free Michael White, he was prescribed anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
White was detained in July 2018 while visiting a girlfriend in Iran and was later convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information.
He is among tens of thousands of prisoners granted medical furloughs by Iran as the country tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday evening, former New Mexico Gov Bill Richardson reached out to Iran on the family’s behalf to ask for an immediate humanitarian medical evacuation.
‘Not only will this allow Michael to receive additional treatment here in the United States, but it will help protect Iranian citizens from further exposure and free up their own medical personnel to treat their own citizens,’ the statement said.
White would likely be returning to California, where he’s from, if he’s evacuated.
California currently has 3,158 confirmed coronavirus cases and 67 deaths
In Iran, the country has reported 2,234 deaths and 29,406 infections so far.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the spread of the new coronavirus and its rate of infection was ‘growing steadily’ in Iran.
The Islamic republic imposed strict new containment measures Thursday, after weeks of public appeals largely failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of Iranians taking to the roads to visit family for the Persian New Year holidays.
‘Those who were planning to travel, cancel it right from this moment,’ said Hossein Zolfaghari, a senior official at Iran’s anti-coronavirus committee.
‘Those who are out traveling should return home quickly,’ he added in a televised announcement while announcing details of the new measures.
Zolfaghari said non-residents will not be allowed into cities based on their car plates and drivers’ IDs, and violators will be fined and their cars impounded.
‘All official and non-official gatherings… are also banned,’ the official said, without elaborating further.
President Hassan Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting he hoped the ‘more strict measures’ would help to curb the virus.
He added the government was going to ask Iran’s supreme leader for permission to draw $1billion from its national development fund to address ‘the coronavirus’ complexities and issues, especially the medical sector’s needs’.
The country will also provide businesses which have not laid off workers during the outbreak with low-interest loans, Rouhani said.