Iran’s Central Taskforce for Coordinating Travel Services has finally issued a circular about the upcoming religious holidays, after several days of internal and public arguments.
Signed off by the deputy minister of tourism Vali Teymouri, it decrees: “All tourist facilities and the taskforce’s member establishments that provide travel services must be ready to offer their best and complete services in these days.”
That is to say, travel and tourism for the holidays has now been given the green light in Iran, contrary to earlier advice by Iran’s public health officials. It comes just days after Minister of Tourism Ali Asghar Mounesan objected to the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s warning that “traveling is highly dangerous”. This minister has apparently now had the last word, albeit while paying lip service to health protocold – despite the fact that most of the usual vacation destination are, according to the government itself, on high alert for coronavirus.
A Power Vacuum in Public Health Management
It is rapidly becoming apparent that the National Coronavirus Taskforce is a largely toothless agent of the government, and one that mostly concerns itself with blandly issuing advice and announcing statistics rather than actively protecting the Iranian population from harm.
The same seems to go for Iran’s elected government. Contrary to earlier rumors the government has stood by as ceremonies and processions for Muharram, the Islamic lunar calendar month in which Shias mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, took place up unfettered up and down the country.
Provincial officials have made some attempts to step into this power vacuum created by the absence of central government, and are desperately trying their best to control the situation. On August 26, Abdolreza Ali Mohammadi, the chief prosecutor for Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, announced that the cars of out-of-province travelers would be impounded.
During the upcoming religious holidays, he said, “Travelers must not come to this province, to safeguard the health of the people of this province and to prevent widespread contagion by coronavirus. With the cooperation of the province’s Bureau of Communications, travelers who cross the security boundaries of this province will be given a message that this province is not receptive to travelers and they must leave as soon as possible.”
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, 160 doctors and other health workers in the province, including three hospital presidents, have been infected with Covid-19.
Similarly, Iran’s Mountaineering Federation announced that climbing the highest mountains in Iran, especially Damavand, Alam Kuh and Sabalan, has been banned until further notice. The federation has asked police to block mountain climbers from entering these areas.
In addition, because of central Iran residents’ tendency to travel to the picturesque north of the country during the holidays, the National Highway Police announced that traffic on the main highways between Tehran and Mazandaran has been banned until Tuesday, September 1.
Iran’s Total Official Cases Hit 21,000
According to Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, the Iranian capital is still in a red state of alert. In the past 24 hours, he announced, more than 5,000 outpatients have visited treatment centers in Tehran province, of whom 470 were hospitalized, and 123 were in a critical condition and sent straight to ICU wards.
The province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad is facing a shortage of the antiviral medicine Remdesivir. “We are not getting enough doses of Remdesivir,” said Imam Bakhsh Ghaedi, vice president of Yasuj University of Medical Sciences. “Each time they send us around 17 units, and just the once did they send us 177 units. I hope they will increase this province’s quota.”
First Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi appeared on television on August 26 to make a proclamation about the contagiousness of coronavirus. “If a person who is infected with coronavirus does not take any precautions, he would infect 430 within a month,” he said. “From every 10 hospitalized coronavirus patient one dies while from every two patient in ICU one loses his life.”
In her daily briefing for August 26, health ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari told the Iranian public that 13 provinces are currently in a red state of alert and 15 provinces are in an orange state:
- Red: Tehran, Mazandaran, Gilan, Qom, Isfahan, Razavi Khorasan, East Azerbaijan, Kerman, North Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Zanjan and Qazvin
- Orange: West Azerbaijan, Alborz, Fars, Lorestan, Hormozgan, Ardabil, Bushehr, Kermanshah, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, South Khorasan, Markazi, Ilam, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Golestan and Khuzestan
Of these, only Ilam and Golestan are in a lower state of alert compared to the days before.
Dr. Lari also announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
- New confirmed coronavirus cases: 2,243
- New hospitalizations: 1,121
- Total cases since the outbreak: 365,606
- Total coronavirus tests conducted in Iran: 3,113,806
- Total recovered from coronavirus: 314,870
- New fatalities: 119
- Total death toll since the outbreak: 21,020
As ever, it must be pointed out that the statistics announced by the health ministry, even if intended to be truthful, are based on “confirmed positive test results”. These are therefore out of step with the much higher figures reported by provincial officials and universities of medical sciences.
This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology