The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran has delayed the transfer of "black box" flight recorders recovered from the wreckage of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 for analysis, the chair of Canada's Transportation Safety Board says.
Kathy Fox told CBC News that Iran notified her office on March 5 that an earlier plan to transport the black boxes for analysis had been cancelled because "problems of [the] coronavirus between states" were affecting the ability of Iranian officials to travel outside the country.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau of the Islamic Republic of Iran added that it was also facing delays because the "coronavirus in Iran was affecting organizational activities and the availability of human resources."
"There was a plan to take [the recorders] to Ukraine. However, that's been delayed because of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran," said Fox. "That is affecting their ability to travel at this time.
"It's just one more challenge that nobody needed."
The COVID-19 death toll in Iran now stands at 354, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Iran's senior vice president and two cabinet ministers reportedly have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Earlier, Iran agreed to send black boxes from a downed Ukrainian jetliner to Kyiv for analysis.
UNIAN memo. Kyiv-bound UIA flight PS752 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport in the early hours of January 8. It was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. Two passengers and the crew members were Ukrainians. There were also 82 citizens of Iran, 63 citizens of Canada, 10 citizens of Sweden, four citizens of Afghanistan, three citizens of Germany and the United Kingdom each. There were no survivors.
On January 11, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani officially admitted that the Ukrainian airliner had been shot down by accident as a result of a "human error" and that those responsible would be held accountable.
On February 2, intercepted communications between Tehran Airport's air traffic control tower and the second pilot of Iran's Aseman Airlines flight at the time of the crash of flight PS752 were released by TSN.Tyzhden. Tehran blamed the Ukrainian authorities for leaking what it described as confidential evidence, and said it would no longer share investigation materials with Ukraine.
On February 14, the Iranian Foreign Minister said Iran did not plan to hand the black boxes over but it would not decrypt their data without the participation of the parties concerned.