According to official figures, at least six people die every hour in Iran from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Islamic republic has become one of the world's coronavirus epicentres, with the death toll surpassing 3,000 this week and the number of cases topping 50,000.

As the virus spreads in Iran, the government has been criticised for its response to the crisis, particularly how it handled the situation in Qom, now the country's worst-hit city where the outbreak began. It has also been accused of playing down the number of cases. 

But Iranian political analyst Mohammad Marandi claims the Iranian government acted to fight the virus as soon as the first case was discovered.

"Iran got its first kit, I think on February the 17th. And on February the 19th, they discovered their first case. And they declared it on the very same day. And the fight began since then," Marandi said.

"The Iranian government didn't botch the response. I'm not an advocate of the administration but the Iranian government, as soon as it discovered what the problem was, it began to deal with it, but they didn't know the scope of the problem," he added.

Marandi blamed US sanctions for Iran's difficulty in obtaining kits as well as for the shortage of medical supplies in the country.

"They've [the US] weaponised the coronavirus for the Iranian people by prohibiting Iran from using the banking sector, by prohibiting Iran from purchasing goods from important pharmaceutical companies. The United States has put so many conditions on different pharmaceutical companies across the world, that they will not work with Iran," Marandi said.

When asked whether he agreed with claims made by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei that the coronavirus was a chemical weapon created by the Americans, Marandi said he did not know where the virus originated.

"I don't know what was the origin of this virus, but I know that the regime in Washington has been using it as a weapon against Iranians. Don't blame the victim, that's ugly," he said.

This week's Headliner, Mohammad Marandi, Iranian political analyst and professor at the University of Tehran, explains the government's response to the coronavirus.