February 1

Date Set for Start of Vaccinations in Iran

Widespread vaccination against Covid-19 in Iran will get under way sometime after February 19, it has been declared.

On February 1, Mostafa Ghanei, chairman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, announced the government’s formal vaccination plan. Iran, he said, is to import more than 25 million doses of vaccine from abroad, on top of the around 16 million doses procured through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility.  Vaccination of the general population, he said, would start after February 19.

Ghanei confirmed that health workers and medical staff will be prioritized first, alongside the elderly, the disabled and war veterans. The in spring and early summer, people aged over 65, those aged between 16 and 64 suffering from underlying diseases, and those in regular contact with other people for work reasons will be next.

In “the second month of summer”, Ghanei added, vaccination would get under way in crowded, over-developed neighborhoods and areas of high transmission. People aged 55 to 65 who do not suffer from underlying diseases would be next to receive the jab, as well as non-frontline medical staff. Phase four of the plan, not due to get under way before winter, will see all other Iranians vaccinated.

Before any of this, Iran is shortly due to receive the first shipment of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, which has been earmarked for high-risk groups. Criticism of this decision has been widespread, and Health Minister Saeed Namaki attempted to counter the criticism this week by saying the families of the health officials would be the first to be injected with the Russian product – although this did not form part of Ghanei’s plan.

Whatever “Is Not American or British”

According to Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for the Iranian Food and Drug Administration, the only important factor in deciding which vaccines to import is that they do not come from the US or the UK. He opted not to remind the public that the for this was an ideologically-driven ban imposed by the Supreme Leader.

“The procurement and importation of any vaccine would happen after a emergency or temporary permit by the Food and Drug Administration is issued,” said Jahanpour. “With the approval of this organization, vaccines that do not originate from the US or Britain can then be purchased and imported.”

Jahanpour emphasized that the Russian vaccine Sputnik-V has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and 14 other countries. He added that it also initiates wider “cooperation” between the two countries in biotechnology.

The first shipment of Sputnik-V vaccines is scheduled to arrive in Iran by Thursday, February 4 and will be followed by others in the coming two months. Today, once again, Health Minister Saeed Namaki tried to defend the government’s decision to import the Russian vaccine. “Our own families will be the first to be inoculated with the approved imported vaccines,” he said. “It is necessary to procure foreign vaccines for vulnerable groups as long as domestically-developed vaccines cannot meet our needs.”

However, said Namaki, only approved vaccines will be imported. “We did not allow the clinical testing of vaccines produced by other countries to be conducted on our people,” he said. “No vaccine should be imported into the country before undergoing phase three of clinical tests and being [publicly] used in the country of origin. We will only import vaccines which have been purchased, registered and used by at least five or six countries in the world.”

Namaki, like all other health officials to date, could not explain why American and British vaccine do not meet this criteria.

Traffic Restrictions Extended

Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, announced that traffic restrictions in areas on “orange” alert for coronavirus transmission have now been extended to those areas on yellow alert as well. This decision particularly affects the three northern provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan, which are popular holiday destinations for Iranians all over the country and especially those in Tehran.

According to Raeesi, nighttime traffic curfew, from 9pm to 3am, is now in place in all cities across Iran, regardless of the alert level.

The number of coronavirus outpatients in Tehran province has doubled in some hospitals, reported Dr. Nader Tavakoli, deputy director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce. “This increase is the result of the hasty lifting of restrictions, of people not taking the situation seriously, of the increase in risky behavior and of a tangible decline in compliance with health protocols,” he said.

Tavakoli also criticized the premature reopening of schools and of businesses such as cinemas, theaters and swimming pools, because they “strengthen the transmission chain of the virus… and if we continue to lift restrictions there can be no doubt that a fourth wave will come.”

According to Tavakoli, the number of new Covid-19 hospitalizations in Tehran has exceeded 300 per day after falling below 200 and currently 1,840 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province. He reported that the number of Covid-19 infections among people below 25 has been increasing as well.

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures by the health ministry, 18 cities in Iran are currently in an orange state of alert Another 124 cities are on yellow alert and 306 are blue, ostensibly at the lowest risk, but still not completely free of coronavirus.

In Alborz, 55 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in the 24 hours leading up to February 1. The total number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the province has reached 283, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. And with the death of three more Covid-19 patients in the past 24 hours, the death toll in the province is now 2,670. As of now, according to Dr. Fathi, 30,362 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized in Alborz and 27,408 have been released from hospitals after a full or partial recovery.

Due to number of holiday travelers escaping the cold in the northern provinces, the situation in Hormozgan is relatively unstable again. With the death of two more confirmed Covid-19 patients, the official death toll in the province has reached 1,001, reported Dr. Fatemeh Noroozian, spokeswoman for Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences. Currently, a total of 155 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across Hormozgan and, of these, 39 are in intensive care units. The more alarming news, according to Dr. Noroozian, is that number of coronavirus outpatients has increased by 20 percent compared to recent weeks.

Most of the travelers are flocking to Qeshm, Iran’s biggest island, known for its beaches, forests, valleys, caves and wildlife. From now on, Dr. Noroozian announced, traveling to any of the islands off the coast of Hormozgan is contingent on a negative coronavirus test. If a traveler tests positive, they and their companions must either return to their province of origin or go into quarantine at a cost of 200,000 tomans ($49) per person per day.

In North Khorasan, the number of Covid-19 patients is again on the rise, reported Dr. Ahmad Hashemi, President of North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences. Currently 146 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province and, according to Dr. Hashemi, the daily number of hospitalizations that had fallen to 15 after recent restrictions and lockdowns has now risen to 30. The number of fatalities has also risen to an average of two per day.

A new wave of coronavirus in Fars is posing an imminent danger to the public, warned Dr. Rasoul Hemmati, president of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. He also asked people to comply with health protocols and avoid unnecessary travel. Currently 539 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province, 95 of them in ICUs, and, with the death of six more patients, the officially-recorded death toll in Fars has reached 3,147.

With a recent 27 percent increase in the number of infections in Khuzestan, it is likely that hospitals in the province will get overcrowded in the coming days, warned Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences. The message is clear, he said: “Congested parks, markets and roads lead to congested hospitals.”

Compliance with health protocols in Yazd has fallen from 74 percent last week to 69 percent, warned Dr. Ebrahim Soleimani, spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours, he reported, 50 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized and one more patient died. Currently, 171 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province, 59 of them in ICUs.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 1, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 2 

Officials Give Mixed Messages on Prospects for Iranian-Made Vaccine

On Thursday, February 4, the first shipment of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is due to arrive at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. According to Mohammad Hossein Zibakhsh, a spokesman for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, it will land aboard a Mahan Airlines flight from Russia. Frontline medical personnel and health workers will be the first to receive the jab. Meanwhile, Covid-19 infection rates in certain Iranian provinces appear to be running rampant again.

“As soon as the high-risk groups are vaccinated, the situation will improve. Then, vaccination of the public will start,” said President Hassan Rouhani in a video conference on February 2. He claimed the government has procured millions of doses of reliable Covid-19 vaccines, and further, that Iran’s domestically-produced CovIran Barekat would “hopefully” be in use by the summer.

In fact, Mohammad Reza Mokhber, head of the Executive Headquarters of Imam's Directive, the Supreme Leader-controlled conglomerate developing the Iranian vaccine, predicted that CovIran-Barekat would be ready for use by April. He said phase 1 of the clinical trials will be complete a few days from now, and phase 2 of the clinical trials will start on receipt of permission from the Health Ministry. Phase 1 included a sum total of 56 volunteers.

Mokhber claimed that CovIran-Barekat has been proven effective against the highly contagious variant of coronavirus discovered in Britain. He also ventured to say that it would be effective against other mutations of coronavirus, such as that recently discovered in South Africa. When asked about the safety of this vaccine, however, he called it “good” without offering any figures or documentation to prove it.

The head of the same parastatal body also claimed that various countries, including neighboring countries of Iran, have expressed interest in CovIran-Barekat vaccine – but then added that no “official” request for a contract had yet been received. He also said three other Iranian-made vaccines are now ready for clinical trials and are awaiting permits from the Health Ministry.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 2, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 3 

Just 500,000 Doses of Russian Vaccine Coming to Iran

On February 2 reputable medical journal The Lancet gave its stamp of approval to the efficacy of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Since then, the dispute in Iran over importing this vaccine has died down. But also since then, it has been reported that Iran only has 500,000 doses of Sputnik V on the way. This means up to 250,000 people in high-risk groups, including frontline medical personnel, can be vaccinated in Iran to begin with.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Saeed Namaki declared that contrary to expectations, “The AstraZeneca company has announced that it will start delivering 4.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to Iran in February through Covax vaccine distribution scheme.”

This was a startling development. In his statement Namaki did not refer to the Anglo-Swedish company’s British ties, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has expressly forbidden imports of American and British-made vaccines to Iran. But Iran is a participant in the Covax scheme, co-led by the World Health Organization, that aims to secure fair access to vaccines for poorer countries, and Covax documents do appear to confirm that this agreement has been made.

Haggling over Vaccine Prices

Iran also intends to procure coronavirus vaccines from other countries including China, India and Cuba, announced Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the head of the Food and Drug Administration. According to him, in the first phase Iran is to import just 500,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, but overall “We have requested a few million doses and this request has not been rejected. The important point is the timing of the delivery. We want the delivery of the vaccines to start as soon as possible but the companies want us to give them more time.”

Shanehsaz said that the Russian vaccine’s efficacy was higher than 90 or even 95 percent, and that the known side effects were so far negligible. “I am sorry,” he said triumphantly, “that some of our colleagues who have no expertise in this field say things that I, as Deputy Health Minister, have to respond to, and this response might appear to be as government propaganda by an official. Whereas perhaps, it could have been completely unnecessary. The media should teach people not to make declarations when they lack the knowledge. Then I can try to provide people with vaccines, drugs and medical equipment instead of providing explanations.”

According to Shanehsaz, there is a direct relationship between the cost of vaccine shipments and when they are delivered, and the reason officials are reluctant to answer questions about vaccine imports at the moment is because they are engaged in “bargaining” over the prices.

“The later the vaccine is delivered, the lower the price,” he said. “If domestic production starts the price of imports would go down. Different factors such as quantity, delivery date, the diversity of sources and the logistics affect the vaccine price.”

Nighttime Curfew and Traffic Restrictions

According to a motion passed by the National Coronavirus Taskforce, coronavirus restrictions would be imposed based on the level of alert. This week the provinces of Isfahan, Fars, Mashhad, Bushehr, Khuzestan and Hormozgan and the islands of Kish and Qeshm are in a “blue” state of alert, the lowest alert level, but if the alert level in these areas rises to “yellow”, then traffic restrictions in and out of cities in these areas will be enforced.

The National Highway Police announced that in the three northern provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan and in some cities in other provinces that are on orange or yellow alert, “orange-level” traffic restrictions will be imposed, meaning that non-local vehicles cannot enter them and vehicles with local license plates cannot leave them. Also, in all cities on orange alert, a nighttime curfew on traffic between 9pm and 3am will be enforced. In cities on yellow or blue alert the decision to impose this curfew is left to the provincial government.

Provinces Round-up

According to Dr. Lari, currently 18 cities in Iran are in an orange state of alert, 124 cities are on yellow alert and 306 are blue, i.e., the lowest state of alert but not completely free of coronavirus. Currently two northern Iranian province of Gilan and Mazandaran are in an orange state of alert.

Mazandaran is one of Tehran residents’ favorite vacation destinations for residents of Tehran but today Colonel Alireza Ghadami, commander of Mazandaran Highway Police, announced that entering Mazandaran from other provinces has been banned. He said that this decision was in accordance with the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s guidelines and asked people to avoid traveling to this province.

With the hospitalization of 220 new Covid-19 patients in the past 24 hours the total number of people in treatment centers run by Mazandaran and Babol Universities of medical sciences has now reached 1,232. Currently 15 cities in Mazandaran are on orange alert: the highest number in Iran.

In Gilan, 83 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in the past 24 hours, reported Dr. Masoud Nowroozi, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences. Currently 459 coronavirus patients are receiving inpatient treatment across the province, 100 of them in intensive care units.

In the past 24 hours, 129 new patients tested positive for Covid-19 in Qazvin and 27 of them were admitted to hospital, reported Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. Currently 206 Covid-19 patients are in hospitals across the province of whom 21 are connected to ventilators. And, with the death of two more Covid-19 patients, the official death toll in Qazvin now stands at 1,274.

Since the coronavirus outbreak 25,578 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized in Kermanshah and 1,457 of them have died, reported Dr. Mohammad Reza Moradi, president of Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences. Currently, he said, 145 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in Kermanshah, 41 of them in ICUs.

In Alborz, 31 new patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in the past 24 hours, bringing the current number of hospitalizations in the province to 252, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. With the death of another Covid-19 patient, he said, the death toll in the province has now reached 2,676.

February 6

Iran to Start Covid-19 Vaccinations within a Week

Iran will kick off its coronavirus vaccination campaign within a week and “this is a real cause for celebration,” President Hassan Rouhani said on February 6, two days after the country received its first batch of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. The announcement comes amid fears of a fourth wave of the coronavirus that was first reported in Iran February last year, marking one year of the pandemic.

The first shipment of Sputnik V vaccine, the only foreign vaccine to be registered and approved in Iran, arrived at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on February 4. In the first phase of vaccination, Rouhani said, high-risk groups including healthcare workers on the front lines will be vaccinated, followed by the elderly and those with critical ailments. He emphasized that even if Iran had all the vaccine doses it needs, the vaccination program for the entire population of 80 million “will perhaps take around six months.”

Rouhani said the second shipment of the Russian vaccine is expected to arrive by late February, but warned that “we must follow health guidelines for another year because the efficacy of vaccine is not 100 percent.”

Iran is also expecting to receive 4.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the World Health Organization’s Covax program. Iran started clinical trials of one of its own vaccines in late December and, according to Rouhani, it may become available by early summer.

Statistics released last week showed that compliance with health protocols has decreased to 81 percent, and this week's report shows 75-percent compliance, which will result in an increase in infections, Rouhani warned.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Health Ministry announced that the total number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the country is close to 1.5 million.

Provinces Round-up

Currently 36 cities in Iran are in an orange state of alert, 178 are on yellow alert and 234 are blue, i.e., the lowest state of alert but not completely free of coronavirus.

Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, announced that although currently no city of Iran is in a state of red alert, the number of cities on orange alert has doubled. The number of cities on yellow alert has also increased from 130 to 178. This could be a “mild tide” that might lead to a fourth Covid-19 surge, he said. Raeesi particularly warned about the situation in the eight provinces of Hormozgan, Khuzestan, Yazd, Gilan, Mazandaran, Golestan, West Azerbaijan and Lorestan.

Last week it was announced that Gilan, with three cities on orange alert, was second on the list of provinces in a dangerous situation, but now the number of orange cities in the province has risen to seven, according to Dr. Masoud Nowruzi, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences. Dr. Nowruzi said the factors most contributing to the spread of the virus in the province are an increase in traffic, a decrease in compliance with health protocols, especially mask-wearing, and also an increase in gatherings. “Taxis have limited space and, considering the cold weather, it isn’t possible to ventilate the air inside the taxi. As a result the virus is transmitted easily,” he said. “Both the driver and the passengers must wear masks and the number of passengers must not exceed three.”

With the hospitalization of 84 new coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours the total number of hospitalized patients in Gilan now stands at 450. Of this number 100 are in ICUs.

Travel to southern areas of Iran from the cold northern areas has led to an increase in the number of coronavirus outpatients and hospitalizations in these provinces, and for more than two weeks officials have been warning that health protocols must be observed when traveling to Hormozgan province and its islands. On February 6 Mohammad Ahmadizadeh, director of Haghani Port in Bandar Abbas, announced that anyone without a negative test cannot travel to these islands, and the test results are only valid for 72 hours.

At a birthday party in Abadan, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, 15 out of 18 guests were infected with coronavirus, according to Dr. Najmeh Seyed Aghamiri, supervisor of Abadan Health Center. She said no action is being taken against violators of the nighttime traffic curfew in Abadan and mask-wearing in the city has fallen from a high of 80 percent to 35 percent.

In Yazd, one the provinces in a more critical condition, currently 166 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, 54 of them in ICUs, according to Dr. Ebrahim Soleimani, spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences, who warned that if this trend continues “we will be back to the dark days of coronavirus.” Despite an increasing number of new Covid-19 patients in Yazd, however, no confirmed coronavirus fatalities were registered in the province in the past two days.

In Qazvin 197 new Covid-19 cases were identified of whom 35 were hospitalized, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 219, according to Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. Of this number 29 are being treated in intensive care units and are on ventilators. No new Covid-19 fatalities were reported in the past 24 hours and the official death toll in the province remains at 1,278.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 6, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 7

Clinical Trials of Second Iranian Vaccine Begin

Iran is due to start coronavirus vaccinations tomorrow on Tuesday, February 9, using the first shipment of the Russian Sputnik V it received last week. Health Minister Saeed Namaki also reaffirmed that health workers in ICUs would take priority, followed by other frontline mecial staff and high-risk groups including the elderly.

Iran received 20,000 doses of the Russian vaccine last Thursday: enough to vaccinate 10,000 people. The first inoculations are therefore largely symbolic and will be taking place in Tehran, with health officials stating they believe up to 1,000 people could receive the jab.

Over the past few weeks Iranian officials have proffered different start dates for so-called general vaccination, ranging from early spring to early summer.

Clinical Trials of Iran’s Second Homegrown Vaccine Under Way

Iran has unveiled its second domestically-developed Covid-19 vaccine, based on a recombinant protein that can be injected or inhaled. The vaccine, called Cov-Pars, is being made by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, Iran’s oldest vaccine development center. It now has received a permit from the Health Ministry to start clinical trials on humans.

According to Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, the vaccine will be tested on 130 volunteers in its first phase of clinical trials. He added that Razi Cov-Pars is an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine that reconstructs a harmless piece of the virus’ spike protein.

The vaccine has been developed under the supervision of the Health Ministry and in compliance with standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), said Saeed Namaki. He added that this product utilizes a combination of an “inhaled dose” and an injection to stimulate the immune system, adding that it has "few side effects" and can be "reconfigured" in the event of virus mutations.

At the unveiling ceremony, Namaki also told the audience that the vaccine could stop the recipient from transmitting the virus to others. Agriculture Minister Kazem Khavazi said animal trials of the vaccine had got under way more than nine months ago and tests were conducted on about 500 animals. “Testing on 25 monkeys was also an unprecedented record and a big undertaking. during which a large number of the Razi institute’s staff contracted the virus,” he said.

Simultaneously, Namaki also reported that Iran’s first vaccine, CovIran-Barekat, has now completed its first phase of human trials – during which the vaccine was administered to just 56 volunteers, including a handful of officials. These trials began in late December and officials have said the initial results will be published in less than a month from now. Hojjat Niki Maleki, head of media for Setad, the parastatal conglomerate controlled by the Supreme Leader that owns Barekat, said two Arab countries have formally asked to purchase the vaccine. He did not name these countries.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 7, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 8

Iran to Coproduce Sputnik Vaccine; Return of the "Violet Oil" Preacher

Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, is currently on a visit to Moscow and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Gamaleya Institute, the Russian company that developed the Sputnik V vaccine.

The agreement is to coproduce the vaccine in Iran, and on arrival in Moscow, Shanehsaz told reporters that preliminary talks over the purchase and co-production of Sputnik V actually began a few months ago.

“The two sides enjoy considerable capacities in the field of drugs supply, and with the cooperation that will be accelerated as of today, we will be able to meet many of the medical and drug needs of Iran,” said Shanehsaz.

The first shipment of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine was delivered to Iran to on February 4. Vaccinations are due to begin tomorrow, February 9, with frontline medical staff. Earlier Mahmoud Vaezi, President Rouhani’s Chief of Staff, had said that Iran was to receive two million doses of the Russian vaccine but later it was announced that 500,000 doses would be delivered to begin with. The first shipment, however, was only 20,000: enough to vaccinate 10,000 people.

Kazem Jalali, Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow, has said that the second and third shipments of Sputnik V will be delivered to Iran by February 28. He added that this will continue every two weeks and later, every month. Meanwhile, it was reported that the 50th case of the more contagious variant of coronavirus discovered in the UK has been identified in Iran.

Does the Coronavirus Vaccine Make You Gay?

“Don’t go near those who have had the Covid vaccine. They have become homosexuals,” announced Abbas Tabrizian, a Qom cleric whose fans consider him a “Father of Islamic Medicine” and an “ayatollah”. The clergyman made the announcement on his Telegram channel, which has an astonishing 210,000 followers. He claimed a microchip is injected together with the vaccine leads to genetic changes which, in turn, lead to homosexuality and a loss of morality and faith.

Unsurprisingly, Tabrizian has a history of derogatory opinions about Western medicine. Last year, a video showed him burning Harrison’s Manual of Medicine and saying “Islamic medicine” had made such books “irrelevant.” Iranian officials and authorities of Shia seminaries condemned the act. Tabrizian then became the butt of jokes again in Iran in March 2020, after he suggested applying violet oil to the anus as a cure for Covid-19.

In the summer of 2019, Iran’s Special Court of Clergy ordered the Health Ministry to shut down all treatment centers and pharmacies associated with Tabrizian.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 8, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by the Ministry of Health, 36 cities in Iran are in an orange state of alert, 178 cities are on yellow alert and 234 are blue.

The number of coronavirus cases in Khuzestan has been rapidly rising in recent weeks and Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, blames the rise on family get-togethers. He said people have not been following health guidelines and have been under the impression that the epidemic is over, because of Khuzestan having been rated “blue”.

In Alborz, three more confirmed Covid-19 patients died in the past 24 hours and the death toll in the province reached 2,692, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. With the admission of 35 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms, the current number of hospitalizations in the province is now 267. Since the coronavirus outbreak, he said, 30,742 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized in the province and, as of now, 27,780 of them have been released from hospitals.

In the neighboring province of Qazvin, 63 new cases of Covid-19 were identified and 26 of them were hospitalized, reported Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. Currently 219 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province. In the past 24 hours no new fatalities were reported from Qazvin and the death toll in the province stands at 1,281.

For the fourth day in a row no new Covid-19 fatalities were reported in Yazd although recently health officials had been concerned about the rising number of infections in the province. In the past 24 hours, 54 suspected cases of coronavirus were hospitalized in Yazd and the current number of patients in hospital now stands at 176, of whom 54 of are in ICUs. So reported Dr. Ebrahim Soleimani, a spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences.

Up until now around 2,100 members of medical staff in Ilam have been infected with coronavirus and four of them have died, reported Dr. Mohammad Karimian, president of Ilam University of Medical Sciences.

In the past 10 days the number of coronavirus outpatients in Urmia, capital of West Azerbaijan, has grown 2.5 times, said Dr. Ali Sadaghiani, president of Urmia Health Center. Just in the past 24 hours, he said, 567 people with coronavirus symptoms visited treatment centers in the city. Since the coronavirus outbreak, 1,200 Covid-19 patients are recorded as having lost their lives in Urmia.

In Lorestan, 121 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, reported Dr. Maryam Koushaki, vice president of Lorestan University of Medical Sciences. As of now, she reported, more than 64,000 people in the province have been infected with coronavirus and 1,326 are known to have died.

February 10

Health Minister's Son is First in Line as Iran Begins Limited Covid Vaccinations

On the morning of Tuesday, February 9, Iran started coronavirus vaccinations with the inoculation of frontline medical personnel and health workers in 635 state and private clinics and hospitals across the country.

The first to be vaccinated, however, was not a health professional at all but Parsa Namaki, the son of Health Minister Saeed Namaki, who declared as justification: “My son was vaccinated to show that our blood is not redder than others’.”

The move was praised by President Hassan Rouhani, who for his part said: “I told my colleagues that I was ready to be among the first to be vaccinated.” He also railed against “foreign media and foreigners” for criticizing the Islamic Republic because it had not started vaccinations earlier.

Dr. Ghasem Jan-Babaei, a deputy health minister, said that the first people to receive the jab would be 34,000 Iranian medical personnel who work in ICUs. Of these, around 22,000 work in government hospitals and the rest are based at private facilities.

The first shipment from Russia includes just 20,000 doses: enough to inoculate 10,000 people out of a population of more than 80 million. Most of those working in ICUs will therefore have to wait for further shipments to arrive, as will other medical workers and vulnerable members of the general population.

According to Dr. Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, two further shipments are due to arrive on February 18 and February 28. He added that he is hopeful that, in cooperation with Russia, Iran will be able to start coproducing Sputnik V inside the country in two months. Iran is also planning to import some 17 million doses of vaccine through the World Health Organization’s Covax facility, and millions more from third parties.

Meanwhile, the official daily death toll from Covid-19 in Iran has increased again. The official death toll now stands at 58.625, though the true figure is thought to be several times higher than this due to a combination of logistical problems and deliberate under-reporting.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 9, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by the Ministry of Health, 36 cities in Iran currently are in an orange state of alert, 178 cities are on yellow alert and 234 are blue.

In Mazandaran, on the first day of vaccinations in Iran, 240 health workers in ICUs across the province received their first shots. Mazandaran’s share of the first shipment of the Russian coronavirus vaccine was just 480 doses, and each of these people must be inoculated twice.

Lorestan’s share of the first shipment was also 480 doses and 240 ICU staff were also vaccinated here on Tuesday. According to Dr. Maryam Koushaki, vice president of Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, they will receive their second shot in three weeks’ time. As of now, she said, no-one else is authorized to receive the vaccine. Meanwhile, she added that 108 new cases of Covid-19 were identified in Lorestan in the past 24 hours, meaning that, as of now, more than 64,000 people in this province are known to have been infected with coronavirus while the official number of fatalities now stands at 1,326.

In Khuzestan, coronavirus vaccination started with the inoculation of Dr. Ghasem Jalali, a specialist in pulmonary diseases. No further information was published about other recipients of the vaccine or the number of doses that this province received. Since January 10 the number of new Covid-19 infections in Khuzestan has been rising rapidly and Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, warned that if this trend continues for the next few days, Ahvaz, the provincial capital, would be back in an “orange” state of alert and extensive shutdowns would have to be reimposed.

Vaccinations in Isfahan started with the inoculation of ICU workers at Isa bin Maryam Hospital. No further information was given about Isfahan’s share of the vaccine. The province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, meanwhile, received just 100 doses of vaccine – enough to inoculate 50 frontline medical staff across three hospitals.

In Gilan some 130 members of the province’s medical staff were vaccinated on the Tuesday. Dr. Abtin Heydarzadeh, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences, said his university hospitals are scheduled to receive a new shipment of the vaccine every week from now.

In Alborz five more confirmed Covid-19 patients died on Tuesday, bringing the official death toll in the province to 2,698, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. With the admission to hospital of 39 new Covid-19 patients, the current number of hospitalizations in Alborz now stands at 283. Since the pandemic started, he added, 30,802 patients have been hospitalized in the province and 27,817 have been safely discharged.

In Qazvin, another 34 Covid-19 were hospitalized in 24 hours and currently 216 coronavirus patients are receiving hospital care, reported Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. With one more death during the same time period, the official coronavirus death toll in the province now stands at 1,282. Also in Qazvin, 300 frontline medical personnel were vaccinated on Tuesday.

Marches to Celebrate Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution Go Ahead Despite Ban

Today marked the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In Tehran, vast processions of cars and other vehicles began from 12 different points in the city in the morning, driving through the streets to circle Azadi Square: the traditional locus of political and symbolic gatherings.

In some other cities, though, the occasion was marked by the traditional in-person marches. It had previously been announced that marches were banned and only cars and motorcycles were allowed, so as to prevent the spread of coronavirus. These processions took place at a time when 36 Iranian cities are on “orange” alert for transmission risk, and some provincial officials have declared a “fourth wave” is under way in parts of Iran.

Plans for 210,000 Vaccinations a Day

Also on February 10, the Health Ministry’s Center for the Prevention of Contagious Diseases officially announced the details of Iran’s ongoing plan for coronavirus vaccinations. According to this plan, 60 million Iranians are to be inoculated within the year, meaning 120 million doses of vaccine will need to be procured.

Every month 10 million doses are set to be distributed, meaning five million people can be fully vaccinated. In other words, 210,000 people will receive the jab every day. If enough doses of vaccine become available more rapidly, the plan states, up to 500,000 could be vaccinated each day– and by the end of this winter, the figure could reach 700,000.

The first to be vaccinated will be Iran’s reported 70,000 frontline medical personnel followed by 600,000 members of high-risk groups including the elderly and war veterans exposed to chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. To fully protect these people the Islamic Republic therefore needs 2.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by the end of this winter.

The plan states that the next in line will be those aged over 65 and those aged between 16 and 64 with comorbidities such as diabetes, heart conditions and lung disorders. This cohort is due to be vaccinated during the spring and the first month of summer, and is thought to number around six million people.

The third phase of inoculations will then run out from July 23 to November 22. In this phase around 12 million more people are to be vaccinated including approximately two million in the most crowded cities, people aged between 55 and 64 who do not have underlying diseases, people who provide essential and necessary services, and non-frontline health workers. The final phase, in the winter of 2021, will cover everybody else.

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by the Ministry of Health, 36 cities in Iran currently are in an orange state of alert, 178 cities are on yellow alert and 234 are rated blue.

The alert status of Iranian cities is set on Fridays based on the previous week’s data and is announced by the National Coronavirus Taskforce on Saturdays. It is therefore very likely that this Friday the number of cities on orange alert will continue to rise.

Vaccinations limited to frontline personnel who work in ICUs have continued in a number of provinces such as West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Razavi Khorasan, Hormozgan, Alborz, Gilan and Markazi.

In Kermanshah, 30 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms were admitted to hospital over the course of the previous 24 hours while 37 were discharged, reported Mehdi Mohammadi, speaking for Kermanshah Coronavirus Taskforce. Currently 144 confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the province and, with the deaths of two more patients, the officially-recorded number of coronavirus fatalities in the province reached 2,704.

Elsewhere 42 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Alborz and 271 suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases are being treated in hospital, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. During the same time period five more Covid-19 patients died in Alborz, bringing the official death toll to 2,704. The number of recorded fatalities in the province has been rising in recent days.

Mazandaran is at the top of the list of provinces with most the cities on orange alert and, with the hospitalization of 175 new patients with coronavirus symptoms, the increase in the number of infections in Mazandaran continued. The total number of people in hospital in the province today reached 1,100.

Since January 10 the number of new Covid-19 infections in Khuzestan has been rising rapidly and the alert level in four cities in this province has been elevated to orange, announced Reza Nejati, spokesman for Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce. He said that restrictions on non-essential businesses in these cities have been imposed and the traffic curfew from 9pm to 4am will be strictly enforced.

More than 60 percent of infections among pediatricians in Mashhad, the capital of Razavi Khorasan, is as a result of their contact with children, said Dr. Gholamreza Khademi, head of the ICU ward at Mashhad’s Akbar Hospital. He reported that as of now, 101 children in this city have died from Covid-19. Of the fatalities among hospitalized Covid-19 patients in Razavi Khorasan, noted Dr. Khademi, approximately three percent are children. “There are two reasons for the deaths of children who have been infected with coronavirus,” he said. “The first is heart and vascular complications and the second is underlying diseases. As of now, 1,179 children infected with coronavirus have been hospitalized in Akbar hospital.”

February 13

Cities on Red Alert Go from Zero to Nine

After weeks of relatively low Covid-19 alert levels across Iran, nine cities, all in the southwest province of Khuzestan, were put on red alert. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the more infectious UK variant has spread across the country and President Hassan Rouhani warned of a fourth wave of the virus. Meanwhile Iran received 100,000 more doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine “ahead of schedule”.

The death of a 71-year-old woman in Tehran and a 48-year-old man in the city of Abyek in Qazvin province “has proved that the [mutated] virus has spread to almost everywhere in the country and we must expect to find this variant in any city, any village and any family,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said. “Even without the mutated virus we were afraid of a new surge and now, unfortunately, things are happening.” Previously Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeesi said less than 50 cases of infection with the UK variant had been identified in Iran.

Pointing out that a number of cities in Khuzestan have been put on red alert, President Rouhani said at the weekly meeting of the National Coronavirus Taskforce: “This is a warning for all of us. It means the beginning of moving toward a fourth wave. We all have to be vigilant to prevent this. The country's points of entry, especially from countries with mutated viruses, should be controlled more carefully and the steps to test and quarantine passengers must be strictly observed.”

Rouhani also asked the media and airline offices outside Iran to remind travelers to Iran about the new coronavirus regulations. “Whether they like it or not, everybody must know that whoever enters this country must be tested and if they are infected they must be quarantined,” he said. 

Iran Receives Second Shipment of Russian Vaccine

The second shipment of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrived at Tehran’s Khomeini International Airport on the morning of February 13. As in the case of the first shipment, contradictory statements were made about the number of doses. Kianoush Jahanpour, speaking for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, said the second shipment will be used “to vaccinate 100,000 people,” while the media, including the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), reported that the shipment contained 100,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 50,000 people because each recipient of the vaccine must be inoculated twice.

There were also contradictory statements about the first shipment of the Russian vaccine that was delivered to Iran on February 4. Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, head of the Food and Drug Administration, said the shipment contained 20,000 doses, but Fars news agency, quoting “Health Ministry officials,” reported that it contained 500,000 doses. Eventually it turned out that 20,000 doses had been delivered to Iran - enough to vaccinate 10,000 people. The vaccination of frontline health workers started on February 9.

With the arrival of the second shipment, vaccination of the rest of the 34,000 frontline health workers, other medical staff across the country and then people over 65 and other high-risk groups is to start. According to Iranian officials the third shipment of the Russian vaccine is scheduled to arrive after February 19.

New Travel Restrictions

The ban on out-of-province vehicles entering the three hard-hit northern provinces of Mazandaran, Gilan and Golestan will remain in place for the coming week, according to Colonel Rasoul Ebrahimi, speaking for the National Highway Police, who said the decision was made by the Interior Ministry. Non-local vehicles are also banned from the pilgrimage cities of Qom and Mashhad and favorite vacation destinations including Isfahan, Shiraz and Bandar Abbas, and the islands of Qeshm and Kish.

Before this week, traffic curfew from 9pm to 3am was only enforced in cities on orange alert, but according to Colonel Ebrahimi this curfew will be enforced in all cities in the coming week and violators will be fined.

Provinces Round-up

The coronavirus alert status of Iranian cities is announced every Saturday by the National Coronavirus Taskforce based on the data that it receives from the previous week. Last week there were no cities on red alert but today Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced that the alert status in nine cities, all in the province of Khuzestan, has been elevated to red.

The number of cities on orange alert has also risen from 36 to 39 and the number on yellow alert from 178 to 228. Currently 172 cities are in a state of blue alert - the lowest state of alert but not completely free of coronavirus - down from 234 a week ago.

With the surge of coronavirus infections in Khuzestan, Valiollah Hayati, deputy provincial governor, announced that restrictions and lockdowns will take effect in red cities, where only essential businesses will be allowed to remain open. “We do concede that businesses will sustain losses, but our first priority is to follow the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s instructions to protect people’s health,” Hayati said.

In Abadan, one of the cities in Khuzestan that is now on red alert, 80 percent of the beds in Taleghani Hospital, the city’s main hospital, are occupied with Covid-19 patients, and the ICUs are completely full, according to Dr. Shokrollah Salmanzadeh, president of Abadan University of Medical Sciences. Provincial officials say other hospitals in southwest Khuzestan might have to accept Covid-19 patients that Abadan can no longer accommodate.

The governor of the neighboring province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Hossein Kalantari, announced that his province has closed its border with Khuzestan and this restriction will be strictly enforced. He said traffic curfew from 9pm to 4am in all cities in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad will be enforced as well and all travelers from other provinces besides Khuzestan must test negative with a coronavirus rapid test.

In the same province, after a wedding ceremony in the city of Dehdasht the father of the groom and the manager of the wedding hall were arrested for violating health protocols, according to Abdollah Sa’adatian, Dehdasht’s prosecutor. He also announced that all reception halls in the province will remain closed until further notice.

Currently in Zanjan 136 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized and with the death of another coronavirus patient the official death toll in the province reached 1,151, according to Zanjan University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours seven new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in the province and in total 19,479 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in Zanjan.

In Qazvin 122 more people tested positive for Covid-19 and 33 of them were hospitalized, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 238, according to Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours three more Covid-19 patients died and the official death toll in Qazvin reached 1,290. Since the coronavirus outbreak began 17,470 patients have been hospitalized in the province.

Alborz province is adjacent to Tehran and, as a result, it is at the crossroads of coronavirus transmission. In the past 24 hours, with the death of five more Covid-19 patients, the death toll in the province reached 2,712, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. Currently 298 patients with suspected and confirmed cases are hospitalized in Alborz, 39 of whom were hospitalized in the past 24 hours.

The rate of infection in Mazandaran has fallen very slightly, but the situation is very fragile and if people ignore health protocols the province could return to a red state of alert, according to Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences. Currently 1,030 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across Mazandaran, 200 of them in intensive care units.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 13, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 14

Officials Suspected of Hiding Truth about UK Variant

Health officials now concede that the highly contagious UK variant of coronavirus has spread to various parts of Iran, although previously they claimed the cases were limited and under control. Some social media users accuse the government of knowing about the spread of the variant but concealing the fact until after the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on February 10.

Meanwhile Hossein Kermanpour, spokesman for Iran’s Medical Council, announced that the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations is again on the rise and intensive care units are being filled to capacity. In recent days Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Health Minister Saeed Namaki, have warned that a fourth wave of coronavirus could be on its way.

More Cases of UK Variant Found 

On February 14 Dr. Mohammad Haji Jafari, vice president of Kashan University of Medical Sciences, reported that a number of cases of the highly contagious UK variant of coronavirus have been identified in Kashan, a major city in Isfahan province, and the variant has already claimed the life of a 45-year-old woman. He said this should sound the alarm for all universities of medical sciences across Iran, and if they find a suspected case of this variant they should send samples to Tehran for verification.

“This virus acts fast and forcefully and the patient’s situation becomes critical quickly,” Dr. Jafari said. The ratio of fatalities is also very high compared to before, and more younger people are becoming infected with the new variant, he added.

Previously Health Ministry officials said only people who had arrived in Iran from other countries were carrying the new variant and assured the public that these patients were under observation and control to prevent them from transmitting the virus to others. On February 8 Reza Jalili Khoshnood, deputy director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said the mutated coronavirus had infected less than 50 people, but in recent days cases of the variant were confirmed in the provinces of Qazvin and Alborz. In Tehran province seven cases have been identified and one of the people infected by it, who had not travelled outside the country, has died.

Eventually on February 13, Health Minister Saeed Namaki officially announced that “the mutated virus has spread across Iran.”

“We lack the facilities to identify all cases of the UK coronavirus variant in Iran and the cost of studying cases suspected of being this mutated virus is very high and, as a result, we cannot study all of them,” said Dr. Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee. He emphasized that there is no difference between the “old” coronavirus and the new one when it comes to prevention, and what works for the first also works for the second.

An Estimated 24,000 Covid-19 Deaths in Tehran

Nahid Khoda Karami, chairwoman of Tehran City Council’s Health Committee, who regularly disputes official coronavirus statistics issued by the Ministry of Health, said that in the past year 24,000 people in Tehran have lost their lives to Covid-19. Her figures are based on death certificates filed with Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery. The ministry itself does not provide statistics for individual cities. Khoda Karami warned that based on scientific studies a fourth wave of coronavirus could be deadlier, and it is even possible that there could be an “Iranian mutation” of the virus. 

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by the Ministry of Health, currently nine Iranian cities, all in Khuzestan province, are in a red state of alert, 39 are in an orange state of alert, 228 are on yellow alert and 172 are blue - the lowest state of alert but not completely free of coronavirus.

In just the past week the number of Covid-19 patients across Khuzestan has increased by 75 percent and the number of hospitalizations by 65 percent, according to Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences. Even two days after the province was put on red alert, markets and roads are still too crowded, Dr. Abolnejadian warned.

In Alborz, with the death of two confirmed Covid-19 patients, the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak began reached 2,714, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours another 45 patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz, bringing the current number of hospitalizations in the province to 291. A total of 31,087 people with confirmed and suspected cases of Covid-19 have been hospitalized in Alborz, of whom 28,078 have been released after treatment.

Seven cities in Gilan are on orange alert, and the situation in the province is still unstable. In the past 24 hours 1,100 people were tested for coronavirus, of whom 300 were positive, according to Dr. Abtin Heydarzadeh, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences. Currently 420 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province, 70 of them added just in the past 24 hours.

In Kermanshah, with the death of one Covid-19 patient, the total number of coronavirus fatalities in the province reached 1,472, according to Mehdi Mohammadi, spokesman for Kermanshah Coronavirus Taskforce. In the past 24 hours 38 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized, bringing the total to 115 currently in the province. Six cities in Kermanshah are on yellow alert, twice the number of a week earlier.

In the neighboring province of Hamedan another Covid-19 patient also died, and the death toll in the province stands at 1,500, according to Dr. Mohammad Taheri, spokesman for Hamedan University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours 33 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Hamedan.

The first phase of coronavirus vaccination in South Khorasan has started with the inoculation of front line staff at Vali Asr Hospital in the city of Birjand with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. 

In West Azerbaijan, 45 percent of the people who were tested for coronavirus have tested positive, a sharp increase from 10 percent a few weeks ago, according to Dr. Javad Aghazadeh, president of West Azerbaijan University of Medical Sciences, who warned that this trend is “worrisome”. Compared to three weeks ago the number of hospitalizations in the province has increased by a factor of 2.5, as has the number of outpatients, he said. Currently close to 500 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in West Azerbaijan, compared to around 320 a month ago. No cases of the UK coronavirus variant have been confirmed in the province.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 14, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 16

New Year Travel Permitted Despite Spread of Coronavirus Variant in Iran

A surge in the number of people infected with the highly contagious coronavirus variant found in the UK has deepened fears of an oncoming “fourth wave” in Iran. New cases have been reported across Iran’s central provinces, including Tehran, Alborz, Isfahan and Qazvin. In the latter, two villages have been quarantined.

Kianoush Jahanpour, officially the spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, reported that confirmed cases of the UK-identified variant in Qazvin have gone beyond the seven that was originally reported. As of now, one Covid-19 fatality stemming from this variant has been confirmed in Qazvin, alongside one in Alborz, one in Isfahan and one in Tehran.

Earlier, officials of the Islamic Republic had claimed that they had prevented the spread of this variant by monitoring and controlling travelers coming from foreign countries. But a few days ago Health Minister Saeed Namaki conceded that the variant had “spread across” the country. Some Iranians on social media have accused the government of concealing the truth ahead of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to try to ensure a good turnout. On February 15 it was reported that all the passengers on an incoming flight from the UK had been quarantined, and Namaki said some 2,000 people were waiting “in a European country” to return to Iran.

Meanwhile in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, the number of ordinary coronavirus infections also continues to rise. Some hospitals are now close to capacity and it has been reported that Iraq is considering closing the border with this mountainous region.

Despite all of this, the National Coronavirus Taskforce has agreed to allow vacationers to travel during the holidays that start the Iranian new calendar year on March 21.

Ayatollah Khamenei, “Super Spreader” of Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories

A report by Associated Press has identified the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, as two of the worst “super spreaders” of conspiracy theories about coronavirus and Covid-19.

Back on March 5, 2020, General Salami had declared that Iran was engaged in a battle against a virus that might be the product of an American biological attack. On this spurious basis, Salami ordered a Ground Force Biological Defense Maneuver to test the country’s ability to combat a biological attack.

Khamenei was among the first and most powerful world leaders to suggest the coronavirus could be a biological weapon created by the US. In his annual Persian New Year address to millions of Iranians on March 22, 2020, Khamenei questioned why the US would offer aid to countries like Iran when its own people were suffering, going on to accuse the US of manufacturing the virus. He used this as grounds to refuse US medical aid, declaring: “Possibly [US] medicine is a way to spread the virus more”. Last month, Khamenei also forbade the importation of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in Britain and the US.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 15, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 17

Iran to Import Chinese-Made Coronavirus Vaccine “Within a Month”

Almost a year after the coronavirus outbreak was formally declared in Iran, a key challenge now facing health officials is the spread of the more infectious variant detected in the United Kingdom, which affects younger age groups more severely and has a higher recorded mortality rate.

Kianoush Jahanpour, head of the Health Ministry’s public relations office, stated on February 16 that 17 casesof infection by this mutated form of the virus have so far been confirmed in Iran through testing. Seven of them were in Qazvin, where “special measures” have reportedly been taken to identify and contain the spread of the virus.

“I do not believe that there are only these few cases in Qazvin,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki had said a day earlier. He added that health officials in Qazvin and the neighboring provinces of Zanjan, Alborz and Tehran must coordinate so that the region is constantly being monitored and effecting measures can be taken to “extinguish” a potential peak.

In recent days Health Ministry officials have reported that at least four people have died from Covid-19 contracted from this variant in the cities of Hashtgerd, Qazvin, Kashan and Tehran. Seven cases have also been officially confirmed in Tehran province but no further information about these patients is available.

Karim Hemmati, head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, announced that his organization is taking the necessary actions to import the Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine, produced by the state enterprise Sinopharm. The first shipment of this vaccine is due to arrive in Iran within a month. He added that the Red Crescent Society is not involved in importing the Russian Sputnik V or other foreign vaccines and is only involved in procuring the Chinese-made product.

The last time Hemmati spoke publicly about coronavirus vaccines was about two months ago, when he said his organization was going to import 150,000 of the Pfizer vaccine donated by philanthropists. But after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei banned the importation of American and British-made vaccines to Iran, he went silent on the subject.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 16, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by the Ministry of Health, nine Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 39 cities are in an orange state of alert, 228 cities are on yellow alert and 172 are rated blue.

All nine cities on red alert are located in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, which borders Iraq. Now it seems that the UK-identified coronavirus variant has infiltrated this province as well. Dr. Ghodratollah Shakerinejad, president of Behbahan University of Medical Sciences, said the alert level in Behbahan, another major city in Khuzestan, might also have to be raised to red in the coming week. He also confirmed that cases of the new variant have been detected in Khuzestan, but provided no further details.

On Monday, February 15, a record number of more than 1,120 patients with Covid-19 symptoms had attended hospitals operated by Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences. The university’s president Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian reported that and a number of its hospitals are now at capacity.

As of now, 227 health workers and medical staff working in ICUs in Khuzestan have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, reported Dr. Mohammad Alavi, the head of Khuzestan Health Center. He added that one of the main obstacles to vaccination is some cities in the province not having any freezers capable of storing the vaccine at the -20 degree temperatures required to preserve it.

Health officials have long stressed that family get-togethers as well as wedding and mourning ceremonies have played a major role in exacerbating the spread of coronavirus in Iran. Many reception halls have been forced to remain closed for months now, and some are facing prosecution by the judiciary. Nevertheless, some Iranians are still paying no attention to the restrictions.

In Hormozgan, three bridegrooms in the port city of Bandar Khamir have been sentenced to one year in prison each for holding their wedding ceremonies in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, reported Dr. Fatemeh Noroozian, spokeswoman for Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences. As of now, she added, 15 villages in the province have either been quarantined or subjected to traffic restrictions for hosting wedding and mourning ceremonies and thus violating health protocols.

In the city of Quchan in Razavi Khorasan, 160 teachers and students have now tested positive for Covid-19, reported Farshid Fathi-Moghadam, head of Quchan Health Network. As of now, he said, 3,660 people in the city have been infected with coronavirus and 230 are known to have died.

The situation in Mazandaran has been critical for several weeks now. On February 16, the number of inpatients dropped to under 1,000, but health officials warn that the situation is still fragile – particularly with the threat of the new variant and the approach of Iranian New Year on March 21, a date when people typically go out on shopping sprees and visit one another. Seven cities in the province are currently on orange alert but Health Minister Saeed Namaki has warned their alert level might be changed to red in the coming days.

In the past 24 hours another 137 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized across Mazandaran, bringing the total number of inpatients in the province to 964. Of these, 202 are being treated in ICUs in hospitals supervised by Mazandaran and Babol Universities of Medical Sciences.

With the hospitalization of 37 new Covid-19 patients in Bushehr, the total number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 in this province has now reached 96, of whom 16 are in ICUs, reported Dr. Saeed Kashmiri, president of Bushehr University of Medical Sciences. With the death of two more Covid-19 patients, the official death toll in the province since the outbreak has now reached 870. Like other health officials across Iran, Dr. Kashmiri again pleaded with people to wear masks, avoid gatherings as much as possible and keep observing health protocols.

February 20

Iran Anxiously Awaits More Vaccines

With the slow pace of vaccination and the spread of the highly contagious UK coronavirus variant to a number of cities, Iranians fear a new crisis. Borders between two Iranian provinces and neighboring Iraq have been closed and ICU beds in some populous cities such as Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan, are at capacity.

Meanwhile Iran still does not have enough vaccine doses to even inoculate its medical personnel and health workers, and government officials are hoping that vaccines procured from the World Health Organization’s Covax program will arrive within two weeks to deal with this shortage.

UK Variant Cases Rising

In recent weeks infections by the UK coronavirus variant have been rising in Iran, especially in Khuzestan province, where the number of cases has increased noticeably and some hospitals are at capacity. This trend is fast spreading to other parts of Iran and reports from other provinces show that the variant has been detected in other cities as well. Health Ministry officials have confirmed that the mutated virus is deadlier and more contagious than the original one.

According to Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeesi, who is also the spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, infection with this variant creates more symptoms in younger patients and it is 30 percent more lethal than the original virus that started in the Chinese city of Wuhan. “Based on evidence that we have, this variant has definitely spread around the country, but it has not replaced the original virus,” he said. “We have found clusters of the variant in Ahvaz, Qazvin, Tehran and Alborz, but they are small clusters.”

“Studies show that younger people are more prone to infection with this coronavirus variant,” First Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said. “The important point is that today the only way people can prevent infection by this virus is to follow health guidelines such as wearing masks, washing hands with soap and water and observing social and physical distancing.”

Iran to Close Border with Iraq 

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli unveiled plans to close the border with Iraq in the southwestern province of Khuzestan in an attempt to contain a new wave of the pandemic. He said border crossings with Iraq will be closed and travel between cities in Khuzestan province will be prohibited. He also expressed hope that cooperation from people would help control the situation in Khuzestan ahead of the Iranian New Year’s holidays that start on March 21.

Kermanshah Coronavirus Taskforce also announced that the borders of this western province with Iraq have been closed to keep the new coronavirus variant out. According to Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, drivers of vehicles that are passing through the province are exempt, provided they test negative for the virus at the border.

First Shipment of Chinese Vaccine to Arrive Soon

So far Iran has imported 120,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, all of them the Russian Sputnik vaccine. Since each person must be inoculated twice with the vaccine, this is enough to vaccinate 60,000 people, including around 34,000 who work at ICUs in state and private hospitals and in treatment centers run by charities.

The plan is that after the vaccination of medical staff, who number less than one million, priority will be given to other high-risk groups such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions. However, Iran’s Medical Council has sent a letter to the Health Ministry asking the government to give priority to artists who make movies and TV shows or even entertainment on social media. The Health Ministry has yet to respond to this request.

Earlier, Health Ministry officials announced that they intend to procure Chinese and Indian vaccines in addition to the Russian one, although nothing is known about the volume of these planned purchases because the Health Ministry says it is “negotiating” with the countries that produce the vaccine.

“To procure the Chinese vaccine a series of documents were necessary that have now been delivered to the Food and Drug Administration and we hope to receive the first shipment of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, around 250,000 doses, in seven to 10 days,” Raeesi said. “We have a contract with them for another two million doses.”

The Indian vaccine, called COVAXIN, is to be procured from Bharat Biotech, Raeesi said, adding that a letter of understanding has been signed with the Indians but nothing has yet been finalized. If this deal goes through Iran will receive a million doses in the spring.

Raeesi also announced that in two weeks’ time Iran will receive 4.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax, an initiative run by the World Health Organization to provide a more equitable access to coronavirus vaccine.

Tourism Sector Ravaged 

The number of foreign visitors to Iran plunged 94 percent in the first nine months of the current Iranian calendar year (which started on March 20, 2020), compared to a year earlier, government data show. “Some 450,000 foreign travelers arrived in Iran mainly for medical or trade purposes during the first nine months of the year… Restrictive measures to tackle the new coronavirus have reduced international travel to the country by 94 percent,” Vali Teymouri, the deputy tourism minister, announced on Wednesday.

“Over 1.5 million jobs have been lost in the tourism sector of Iran due to Covid-19…. Many of the tourism staff are now unemployed or they are staying at home,” Tourism Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan said in December. According to the minister 8.7 million foreign nationals visited Iran during the previous [Iranian] year, and Iran was ranked as the second fastest-growing country for tourism based on data compiled by the World Tourism Organization. “At the onset of coronavirus tourism faced a sharp decline in the world, including in our country,” Mounesan said. “So in the first three months of the current [Iranian] year the number of foreign tourists dropped to 74, almost zero!”

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, 11 Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 52 cities are in an orange state of alert, 217 cities are on yellow alert and 168 are rated blue. The National Coronavirus Taskforce updates the alert status of Iranian cities every Saturday based on the data from the preceding week and the latest figures show that in the past week the number of cities on red alert has increased by two and the cities on orange alert by three. All cities in a state of red alert are in the province of Khuzestan. The provinces of Mazandaran and Khuzestan had the highest number of hospitalizations, while Mazandaran and Gilan had highest number of deaths during the same time period.

According to the spokesman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce, the UK coronavirus variant increases fatalities by 30 percent, but Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Khuzestan University of Medical Sciences and spokesman for the province’s coronavirus taskforce, said the variant is 50 percent more lethal than the original virus and spreads 50 to 70 percent faster.

He said the mutated virus was first detected in Khuzestan on January 29 and in less than a week the number of cases started to increase. According to Abolnejadian, Tehran’s Pasteur Institute has tested samples sent from Khuzestan and has confirmed that the mutated virus has entered the province.

In a videoconference with the National Coronavirus Taskforce, Khuzestan Governor Ghasem Soleimani Dashtaki asked President Hassan Rouhani to give the province the authority to make pandemic-related decisions locally because under president conditions decisions must be taken immediately. And Dr. Farhad Soltani, vice president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, reported that all ICU beds in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan, are at capacity.

The number of inpatients in West Azerbaijan is now approximately 500, up from about 350 a month ago, according to Dr. Javad Aghazadeh, president of West Azerbaijan University of Medical Sciences. It is not yet clear whether this increase has been caused by the more contagious coronavirus variant or by a surge of the original virus. Currently 132 of the inpatients in West Azerbaijan are being treated in ICUs and 30 of them are on ventilators. According to Dr. Aghazadeh, as of now more than 111,000 people have been infected with coronavirus in the province.

In Alborz, with the hospitalization of 24 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms, the number of inpatients reached 303, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours one more patient with Covid-19 died and the death toll in the province now stands at 2,727.

No city in Alborz is on red alert, but it was announced that red alert restrictions will be enforced in three cities in the province and only essential businesses and services will be allowed to remain open. Two other cities have been warned that if compliance with health protocols deteriorates any further they may also be hit with these restrictions.

February 20 was the anniversary of the coronavirus outbreak in Gilan. Dr. Abtin Heydarzadeh, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences, reported that 100 samples from Covid-19 patients have been sent to Tehran’s Pasteur Institute to investigate whether any of them have been infected with the UK coronavirus variant, but “fortunately, the tests have been negative.”

In the past 24 hours 50 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Gilan, bringing the total number of inpatients in the province to 350, of whom 60 are in intensive care units.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 20, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

February 21

Calls for Quarantine of Khuzestan Rejected by Government

“The current situation in Khuzestan cannot be controlled with existing methods,” wrote Dr. Mohammad Esmail Motlagh, an advisor to Health Minister Saeed Namaki, on February 21. In his missive to the authorities, the senior medic asked for a two-week complete quarantine of Khuzestan amid an “unrestrained” surge of coronavirus infections in the province.

ICU wards in Khuzestan’s provincial capital of Ahvaz are at capacity and every hospital in the city is currently engaged in treating Covid-19 patients. But Ahvaz is not alone in this respect and other cities in the province are in a similar situation.

The borders between Khuzestan, and the two western provinces of Kermanshah and Ilam, with Iraq have been closed until further notice to prevent more cases of infection from coming in and until the government decides what to do about testing and quarantining travelers at the border.

In spite of this dire situation, the government rejected the call for an urgent and complete quarantine of Khuzestan. In the meantime, it was reported that young people in the province have proven more prone to infection by the coronavirus variant identified in Britain, and the Pasteur Institute has confirmed that two children, a one-year-old and a nine-year-old, have died from Covid-19 contracted from this variant in Khuzestan.

In his letter, Dr. Motlagh wrote that all businesses and services in the province, except essential ones, should be locked down completely for two weeks and the time should be used to provide hospitals with more facilities and beds, to set up recuperation facilities and to find replacement staff for health workers who have been infected and can no longer work. However, it seems the government did not agree with his proposal.

Only One Place to Test for the Coronavirus Variant

It is only the Pasteur Institute in Tehran that can presently conclusively determine whether a patient anywhere in Iran has been infected with the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the variant. Hospitals must send samples to Pasteur Institute, a laborious and time-consuming process. As a result, it is almost certain that infections with the variant are going underreported. So far, the institute has confirmed only 62 such cases of infection.

According to Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, these confirmed cases were identified in the seven provinces of Tehran, Khuzestan, Hamedan, Alborz, Qazvin, Fars and Hormozgan. Of these, four patients have died in Ahvaz, two in Tehran and one in Hamedan.

Iranian Vaccine “90 Percent Effective”

Mohamad Reza Salehi, head of clinical trials for CovIran-Barekat, said on February 21 that immunogenicity tests on 35 of the volunteers who took part in the first phase of clinical trials of the vaccine had shown better-than-expected results. “Preliminary results show that about 90 percent of the people who received two doses of the vaccine exhibit evidence of immunity,” he said, adding that more testing will be needed for more accurate results. Iranian officials had previously claimed that CovIran Barekat was “100 percent effective” against the Covid-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

The first of the 56 volunteers who were accepted for the first phase of clinical trials were injected in late December, and by earlier this month all volunteers had received both doses. The second phase of clinical trials is expected to start before the end of the current Iranian calendar year on March 20, and take place through to May.

At the same time, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said the Covid-19 vaccine that is being developed jointly by Iran and Cuba will be used sooner than other domestic vaccines. “The joint production of coronavirus vaccine between Iran and Cuba will get its final results ahead of other vaccines and will be used in the country sooner than other vaccines as well,” he said. “With the studies conducted on this, vaccine production between the two countries may enter the implementation phase by the end of April.”

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 21, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by Dr. Lari, 11 Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 52 cities are in an orange state of alert, 217 cities are on yellow alert and 168 are rated blue.

All cities in a state of red alert are in the province of Khuzestan and with eight cities also on orange alert, Khuzestan is currently the hardest-hit province in the country. Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, the president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences and director of Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that the first case of infection with the coronavirus variant was detected in a man travelling from the Netherlands to Khuzestan. Besides this traveler, 82 other passengers on the same plane who lived in Tehran, and nine residents of Ahvaz – including his sisters, who had gone to welcome him home – have been traced and asked to quarantine at home.

According to Dr. Abolnejadian, 10 more samples were sent to Tehran’s Pasteur Institute to test for the coronavirus variant. Nine came back positive, two of them were from the city of Abadan, but further tests found more cases of infection with the variant in other cities of Khuzestan. Dr. Abolnejadian warned that some people outside Iran have been buying and selling negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test results, and for this reason Khuzestan has closed its borders with Iraq until it is decided how to adequately test and quarantine people who are entering from that country.

Currently 6,000 coronavirus tests are being conducted a day in Khuzestan and in some parts of the provincial capital of Ahvaz, buses have been turned into ambulances so people can get tested quickly. “Medical facilities in Ahvaz can no longer help other cities,” said Dr. Abolnejadian. “We have told other cities to hospitalize their own patients and only send those who are in a grave condition to Ahvaz.”

In the past 24 hours 1,579 people with Covid-19 symptoms visited hospitals in the province. Currently 984 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospitals in the province, 254 of them in ICUs. According to Dr. Abolnejadian, of the 3,884 coronavirus tests that had been performed in Khuzestan at the time he spoke on February 21, 957 or 24 percent of them had come back positive.

“We should expect a possible new peak in Tehran province”, warned Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, pointing out that the number of infections, outpatients and inpatients has not been falling since early February. He also reported that the number of infections among younger people has been increasing.

In the past 24 hours, another 362 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Tehran province and 100 of them were sent directly to intensive care units. Currently 2,062 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in 108 hospitals in the province, 860 of them in ICUs. The number of known outpatients in the past 24 hours came to  5,800.

In Qazvin, where both the original coronavirus and its variant are active, Qazvin University of Medical Sciences reports that 136 new Covid-19 cases were identified and 31 of them hospitalized on February 21, bringing the total number of inpatients in the province to 210. Of these patients 19 are breathing through ventilators and, with the death of another Covid-19 patient, the official death toll in Qazvin has reached 1,306.

Mazandaran was hard hit with the third wave of coronavirus and fears of a fourth wave still persist. But in the past week the number of infections in the province has been falling. According to the latest figures, 94 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in the past 24 hours and currently 816 inpatients are being treated in hospitals operated by the Mazandaran and Babol Universities of Medical Sciences. Of this number 198 are in ICUs.

February 22

Chinese Government Donates 250,000 Doses of Vaccine to Iran

On Monday, February 22, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that China would be donating 250,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine made by China National Pharmaceutical Group, commonly known as Sinopharm, to Iran.

Separately, Health Minister Saeed Namaki reported that round two of the vaccination of medical staff and health workers would get under way on February 23. So far, having accumulated 120,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the promised 250,000 doses from China, Iran has enough vaccine to inoculate 185,000 people in total.

Reports from the southwestern province of Khuzestan continue to be alarming. In big cities such as Abadan and Ahvaz the highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom is now infecting more and more people, and hospitals are at capacity or – as local officials put it – are indeed “overflowing”. Still, the government and the National Coronavirus Taskforce continue to resist calls for a two-week lockdown of the province.

New Round of Vaccinations to Start

The vaccination of another 100,000 medical personnel and health workers will start on Tuesday, February 23, announced Health Minister Saeed Namaki. Iran has so far procured 120,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine – by itself, enough to inoculate a total of 60,000 people – so it is not clear how “another” 100,000 are to be vaccinated when Iran has not received any other shipment. That said Namaki may be counting on the Chinese-made vaccine now expected to arrive next week.

“I was not ready to talk about it until technical details are resolved, but I must tell you that the Chinese government has donated 250,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Iran,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh, Foreign Ministry spokesman.

According to earlier announcements, around 34,000 frontline medical personnel and health workers who work in ICUs will have priority. After them it will be the turn of other health workers and medical staff.

“This is Not the Way to Run the Country”

In his statements on Monday, Namaki was highly critical of uncontrolled traffic across the border with Iraq, which has been officially closed in three Iranian provinces. “Last night they informed me from Ilam that a young, pregnant woman had died because of coronavirus, and they had delivered the baby by cesarean section,” he said. “Who is responsible for the death of this Iranian woman?... When was it that we allowed them to cross the border on buses? A bus enters Iran through its western border and goes to a city, and then we find positive cases in that city without us knowing anything about it. This is not the way to run the country.” Namaki went on to complain: “Nobody tells me who comes and who goes, making me into a morgue manager instead of the health minister.”

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 22, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by Dr. Lari, 11 Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 52 cities are in an orange state of alert, 217 cities are on yellow alert and 168 are rated blue. All cities in a state of red alert are in the province of Khuzestan.

Khuzestan continues to be in a critical situation and calls for a two-week complete lockdown of the province continue. In the past 24 hours the presidents of the six biggest hospitals in Khuzestan’s provincial capital of Ahvaz, and also Karim Hosseini, chairman of the Khuzestan Caucus in the Iranian Parliament, have called for a lockdown of the province to prevent the coronavirus crisis from getting worse.

A day earlier, in a letter to Health Minister Saeed Namaki, Dr. Mohammad Esmail Motlagh, an advisor to the Health Ministry, had asked for a two-week complete quarantine of Khuzestan amid the “unrestrained” surge of coronavirus in the province.

So far, however, these requests have fallen on deaf ears in central government. The western border with Iraq has been closed but traffic between neighboring border provinces has not been restricted. At the same time, local officials report that despite the official ban, two border crossing are still open to “commercial” vehicles. The government has announced that it will build facilities in border terminals to quarantine travelers entering Iran until their test results are known.

Referring to the negligence in closing borders only long after cases of infection with the coronavirus variant were discovered, Dr. Mohammad Alavi, vice president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, said on February 22: “With the increase in the number of patients, we expected that borders would be closed or would be controlled more rigorously. But the borders remained open and travelers were allowed to enter Khuzestan. As a result, the virus was able to enter Khuzestan and the country easily.”

He added: “We say that traffic must stop but this requires the closing of government offices. “However, these offices are still open and some are functioning at full capacity.”

To prevent gatherings of crowds, on Sunday, February 21, electricity to the central bazaar and a number of streets in Ahvaz were cut off at 6.45pm by the order of city’s governor. Jamal Alami Neysi, the governor, reiterated that the number of Covid-19 fatalities in Ahvaz had risen and all ICUs were at capacity. He said that most businesses are now closed and observing restrictions but some shops have remained open and these businesses have either been warned or forcibly shut down.

Until now the only way to confirm whether a patient has been infected with the coronavirus alternative was to send samples to Tehran’s Pasteur institute. But now, Abadan University of Medical Sciences reports that it has received test kits with which to diagnose the variant. The quantity of test kits received by the university remains unknown. It was also announced that three neighborhoods in Abadan have been locked down because of their high rate of infections.

With the hospitalization of 42 new Covid-19 patients in Alborz, the number of inpatients in the province has reached 299, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours no other confirmed Covid-19 patient died and the official death toll in the province remains at 2,729.

So far three confirmed cases of infection with the coronavirus variant have been found in Alborz and two of them have died, said Nour Mohammad Fardi, director of Alborz Coronavirus Taskforce. He added that currently 38 cases of suspected infection with the variant are in “special quarantine”, and asked people to observe health protocols more strictly.

In West Azerbaijan, 274 patients tested positive for Covid-19 and 64 of them were hospitalized, according to West Azerbaijan University of Medical Sciences. Currently, 495 cases of Covid-19 are hospitalized in the province, 136 of them in ICUs. Of the latter group, 31 are breathing through ventilators.

February 24

Rumors of Coronavirus Variant Spreading in Iran

Reports have continued to come in from cities across Iran regarding infection rates of the new and more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom. But health officials say these reports are unreliable because only Tehran’s Pasteur Institute has the capability to confirm whether an infection is caused by the original virus or the variant – and that other cities must send samples to the Pasteur Institute for testing.

Emergency restrictions have meanwhile been announced in the cities of the hard-hit province of Khuzestan. The government has yet to agree to a two-week lockdown of the province even though the provincial governor says that a total quarantine is “likely.”

Infections Rise among the Very Young and the Very Old

According to official figures, the number of fatalities from the coronavirus variant in Tehran has reached three.

Age groups under 10 and over 70 have been categorized as “high-risk groups,” announced Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce. This time last year, he said, less than one percent of children under 10 were infected. Now the figures is 11 percent. The rate of infections among the over-80 age group, meanwhile, was 7.4 percent a year ago; now it has gone up to 12 percent. The rate of infections in the 40-70 has fallen to 18 percent.

In Tehran province, in the past 24 hours, 280 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in common wards and 92 were hospitalized in ICUs, reported Dr. Zali. During the same time period, 345 Covid-19 patients were discharged from hospitals.

Proposal for More Restrictions in Tehran

Infections among people under 20 years of age has increased in the past month from 5.2 percent to 9.1 percent, reported Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, Governor of Tehran province. He said a proposal for more restrictions such as banning flights from European countries and heavier fines for violating health guidelines and restrictions had been sent to the National Coronavirus Taskforce. He also announced that all gatherings to celebrate the Iranian new year on March 21 are banned.

Bandpey had earlier issued similar warnings against gatherings during religious holidays known as Fatimiyya and marches to celebrate the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on February 10 although the warnings had been mostly ignored.

Vaccines for the Disabled

Mohammad Nafariyeh, vice president of the National Welfare Organization, announced that disabled Iranians are among the groups that have priority for vaccinations and promised that 20,000 doses will be allocated for the vaccination of the disabled living in care facilities. Nafariyeh added that medical staff and health workers have the first priority for vaccinations; after them, the disabled, the elderly and veterans who had been injured during the Iran-Iraq War.

The vaccination of 10,000 disabled people will start before the spring, Nafariyeh said. “Other groups covered by the Welfare Organization include the elderly and the disabled who live at home,” he said. “They have second priority and their vaccinations will begin after the inoculation of the disabled who live  in care homes.”

A Second Pregnant Nurse Dies

Faranak Davoudi, a nurse in Alborz province who was seven months pregnant, has died from Covid-19. Davoudi’s baby was saved by caesarean section after she had become ill. Earlier, on February 14, another pregnant nurse had died from Covid-19 though her baby was also saved by caesarean section.

According to official figures, so far eight members of the medical staff in Alborz have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Damage worth $5.2 billion to Iran’s Tourism Industry

The tourism industry in Iran has suffered $5.2 billion in losses since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, said Tourism Minister Ali Asghar Mounesan. “We hope that widespread vaccinations will bring prosperity to all branches of tourism, such as agro-tourism, ecotourism, and nature tourism,” he said. “Over 1.5 million jobs have been lost in the tourism sector of Iran due to Covid-19,” he had previously reported, in December of last year. “Many of the people engaged in tourism industry are now unemployed or are staying at home”.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 23, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by Health Ministry spokeswoman, Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, 11 Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 52 cities are in an orange state of alert, 217 cities are on yellow alert and 168 are rated blue. All cities in a state of red alert are in the province of Khuzestan.

The situation in Khuzestan is still critical; and even though Ghasem Soleimani Dashtaki, the provincial governor, has announced that a two-week lockdown to prevent further spread of the virus is likely, central authorities have yet to agree to it.

Hospital chiefs in the provincial capital of Ahvaz and other health officials have been calling for an “emergency” total quarantine of Khuzestan. Government offices are currently employing only a third of their workforces. Office managers have been told that pregnant women and employees with underlying health conditions should be either given a leave of absence or be allowed to work remotely. In the cities on red alert only essential businesses and services are allowed to remain open.

Travel between cities on red alert in the province is not allowed and the military has been called to help enforce this ban. According to Colonel Reza Dowlatshahi, commander of Khuzestan Highway Police, from February 23, vehicles with non-local license plates cannot enter cities on red or orange alert and those with Khuzestan license plates cannot leave the province. Violators will be fined and these restrictions are to continue until at least March 5.

With one more death from Covid-19, the death toll in Kermanshah since the coronavirus outbreak has reached 1,479, announced Mehdi Mohammadi, spokesman for Kermanshah Coronavirus Taskforce. Mohammadi also said that in the past 24 hours, 42 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in the province. The number of hospitalized Covid019 patients in Kermanshah now stands at 152 of whom 43 are in ICUs. As of now, 43,384 in the province have been infected with coronavirus.

In Mazandaran 140 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized, bringing the total number of inpatients in hospitals operated by Mazandaran and Babol universities of medical sciences to 775.

In Alborz, with the death of one more confirmed Covid-19 patient, the official death toll in the province reached 2,730. In the past 24 hours, 32 new patients were hospitalized and the number of hospitalized patients in the province is currently 292.

February 25

Amid Deepening Coronavirus Crisis, Officials Propose New Year Package Tours

Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation. Medics and provincial officials have petitioned the government for a two-week lockdown of the province, but they have not yet succeeded in convincing decision-makers that a total quarantine is desperately needed in this deprived part of Iran.

In the past two weeks, the number of outpatients across the country has also been rising and the health minister has confirmed the new variant of coronavirus identified in Britain has now reached all 31 provinces. Despite this, no further restrictions have been imposed and instead, the Ministry of Tourism has unveiled the idea of paid-for package tours around the country for Iranian New Year – as a means of combating coronavirus.

Ongoing Pleas for the Lockdown of Khuzestan Province

The surge in new infections in Khuzestan continues. All 11 Iranian cities currently on red alert are located in this province. Vehicles with out-of-town license plates cannot enter cities in Khuzestan and those with local license plates cannot leave either. Roads from the neighboring provinces of Ilam and Lorestan have been closed as well.

According to Karim Hosseini, chairman of the parliament’s Khuzestan Caucus, formal requests by the provincial governor and other provincial officials for a two-week lockdown of the province have been submitted to the National Coronavirus Taskforce. Earlier requests had also been made by local health officials and the presidents of major hospitals in the Khuzestani capital of Ahvaz, but the National Coronavirus Taskforce did not take any action in response.

Hospital officials in Ahvaz say all ICU wards in the city are now at capacity and few beds are available in other wards. “The shortage of hospitals beds is more severe in Ahvaz because other towns have fewer specialized facilities and patients are sent to Ahvaz,” said Dr. Farhad Soltani, vice president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences. “We have also a shortage of nurses in all Ahvaz hospitals.”

The number of patients in the red-rated cities of Abadan, Shadegan and Khorramshahr is increasing exponentially, reported Dr. Shokrollah Salmanzadeh, president of Abadan University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours alone, 173 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Abadan: 64 from Abadan itself, 44 from Khorramshahr and 65 from Shadegan.

Health Minister Blames Spread of Infection on the People

Two days ago Health Minister Saeed Namaki said his job better befitted the title “manager of a morgue” than health minister and grumbled: “This is not the way to run the country.” Today he clarified that he was angry not because of non-enforcement of travel restrictions, but because of the pilgrims traveling to holy places in Iraq.

In his latest statement on February 24, Namaki also sharply criticized the apparent disregard shown to health protocols in Khuzestan. “Unfortunately, in Shadegan, which was our first center of contagion, compliance with health protocols has dropped to zero,” he said. “It was totally clear to us that we were going to have a big, big crisis in Khuzestan in the near future.”

In the past two weeks the number of outpatients across the country has been rising and the coronavirus variant has reached all provinces, said Namaki. He also warned that infection with this variant can lead to Covid-19 requiring hospitalization within 72 hours, whereas it generally took Covid-19 contracted from the original virus seven to 10 days to become that severe, if at all. He attributed the new surge in Khuzestan “mostly” to the highly infectious variant.

Dr. Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, warned against traveling during Nowruz: the holidays that mark the start of the new Iranian calendar year on March 21. “We foresee a definite increase in the number of coronavirus fatalities in the coming days because when cases increase so do hospitalizations and then fatalities,” he said.

New Year Travels Allowed

Despite all the warnings against new year travels, Iran’s Tourism Ministry announced that it has gained official permission for organizing limited intercity travel during the vacations. “We have obtained permission for limited Nowruz trips from the National Coronavirus Taskforce,” announced Vali Teymouri, a deputy tourism minister, on February 23. The aim is apparently to boost the flagging tourism industry, which has naturally been in slump since the coronavirus outbreak.

“We propose two travel models that can be implemented following health protocols in the country,” Teymouri said last week. “The first model for Iranian New Year proposes travel by means of package tours. Through package tours, travelers benefit from services provided by the tour and they will stay in authorized accommodation centers [and destinations] under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism.”

In the second model, Teymouri added, people will not go on tours, but when traveling to their destination city they will stay in authorized accommodation centers under the supervision of the ministry, so as “to comply with all health protocols and maintain public health”. Iranians traditionally make hundreds of thousands of domestic trips during the New Year holidays, when most businesses and workplaces are closed, as are schools.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for February 24, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

Provinces Round-up

According to the latest figures announced by Dr. Lari, 11 Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 52 cities are in an orange state of alert, 217 cities are on yellow alert and 168 are rated blue.

With the deaths of two more Covid-19 patients in Alborz, the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak has now reached 2,732, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours a total of 44 patients with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized and the number of inpatients in the province now stands at 296.

Mehrdad Babaei, spokesman for Alborz Coronavirus Taskforce, said that as of now five confirmed cases of infection with the coronavirus variant have been identified in his province and three of them have died. The true number is likely to be significantly higher.

The southern province of Hormozgan and the Persian Gulf islands are the destination of many vacationers during the cold season, and it has been reported that so far, the coronavirus variant has sent four patients to hospitals in this province. A total of nine cases of infection with the variant have been identified in Hormozgan. The number of inpatients in the province now stands at 111 and, of these people, 22 are being treated in ICUs.

Cases of infection with the coronavirus variant have now been reported from nine Iranian province of Razavi Khorasan, South Khorasan, Markazi, Alborz, Tehran, Qazvin, Khuzestan, Hormozgan and West Azerbaijan. According to the National Coronavirus Taskforce, as of now 112 cases of infection have been identified across Iran and seven of these patients have died. This figure is likely to be a huge understatement because the provinces are not equipped with laboratories that can identify cases of the coronavirus variant, and must send samples to Pasteur Institute in Tehran to be tested.

{[ breaking.title ]}

{[ breaking.title ]}