Iranian students make masks for nurses amid crisis

It was a spontaneous decision by Iranian university students to get together and find a way to help the country's nurses fighting the coronavirus on the front lines.

Now they're crafting homemade surgical masks.

In their workshop, the hum of sewing machines fills the air.

Student Zeinab Nikbakht says they are trying to help fill a shortage of protective equipment in the country.

(SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) UNIVERSITY STUDENT, ZEINAB NIKBAKHT, SAYING:

"Because we were dissatisfied with the government's actions (in producing protective masks) and there was no serious action to be taken in this matter, we decided to get together spontaneously, and we started doing this (producing masks) in a workshop in Shariati University."

Iran is the worst-hit country in the Middle East.

Its death toll has climbed to over 850 and the the official count of confirmed cases has reached more than 15,000 people.

The students in their workshop urge the Iranian public to take the virus seriously.

(SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) UNIVERSITY STUDENT, ZEINAB NIKBAKHT, SAYING:

"God willing, it will soon end, but I don't think that the story is going to be end soon, people have not yet taken it seriously."

China on Monday (16 March) called on the United States to lift sanctions on Iran immediately, to aid its response to the outbreak.

President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Tehran's oil exports in 2018 after he withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

Iran said last week it had asked the International Monetary Fund for $5 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus.

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