Iran’s health minister Saeed Namaki has said that Iran is descending into a “dark pit” and expressed profound anxiety as Iran experienced a conspicuous spike of coronavirus fatalities in recent days. Pointing to the daily statistics regarding cases and fatalities, he said: “Everyone should know that I, as health minister, cannot bring this epidemic situation under control alone. A lot more is required.”
He insisted that businesses were not doing enough to make work and public environments safe, despite guidelines set out by the government and a significant amount of “begging” from officials. He pointed in particular to the travel industry, saying airlines were not doing enough, and warning of the dangers posed by public transport. “Which buses comply with health protocols? They said that by late May they would add more buses but they have not added even one.”
He also hinted at tensions between the health ministry and the taskforce established to handle the coronavirus crisis, and suggested police needed to improve their efforts too. “We asked the National Coronavirus Taskforce to fine anybody who does not wear a mask, but look at the statistics and see how many people have been fined. We said close the roads but how many did they close? This is no way to contain the pandemic."
General Hossein Rahimi, Tehran’s police commander, said that, at the moment, the police have only been warning pedestrians who do not wear a mask in a way that “guides” them, not in a manner that suggests punishment. He said police would fine drivers and passengers when the time comes, after the policy of fining people was officially announced.
Namaki also said religious holidays in September and October mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hossein had had a significant impact on Iran’s coronavirus crisis. “It is really painful to see that a hospital is overflowing with patients, but 100 meters away people have gathered [to mourn] and nobody comes to disperse them.”
What are the Real Figures?
Several health officials have challenged the daily statistics announced by the government, and demanded to know how much they actually reflected the dire situation on the ground.
Among them is Dr. Masoud Mardani, a specialist in contagious diseases and a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, who said, “The daily death toll from coronavirus has reached 337, but this is not the real number. To find how many really die in a day we must multiply this number by 2.5.
“The hospitals are overflowing with patients and have no empty beds,” he said. “Considering the upcoming holidays we are more worried than ever.” He proposed that people who travel out of their towns of residence via car be fined a million tomans ($240) and that the money generated from fines be spent on preventing and treating Covid-19.
If Mardani’s assessment is correct, it would mean there were around 850 deaths in just the last 24 hours. If this is true, Namaki’s anxiety would be completely understandable, although despite his worries, the minister swore to God that the figures the Islamic Republic has announced are “among the most accurate statistics in the world,” adding that “they can all be defended and they are based on the most updated evidence.”
On October 20, an Iranian company claimed it was in the process of developing a coronavirus vaccine based on a measles vaccine, announcing that it will cost between $6 and $10. The company did not, however, say when this vaccine would be made available.
Despite such widespread confusion and disagreements among government and health officials, Saeed Namaki corroborated claims that an Iranian-manufactured coronavirus vaccine was approaching an advanced testing stage and was almost ready to be trialed on humans. “The Iranian vaccines has passed animal testing and human testing will start in the first half of November,” he said. “Four or five teams in Iran are going through testing phases. Two or three of these groups have made good progress and have performed the necessary tasks required by international standards.”
In recent days there have been reports that Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital has run out of beds and long lines of patients have formed at its emergency ward. On October 20 the hospital announced that it had set up a new emergency ward and treatment center specifically for Covid-19 patients.
On October 20, Alborz province, a coronavirus hotspot, broke its record for Covid-19 fatalities. In the 24-hour period between October 19 and October 20, 27 more coronavirus patients died, bringing the total death toll for the province to 1,472, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. Emphasizing that the province has been in a critical condition since the week before this recent announcement, he said, “Currently 775 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the province and, in the last 24 hours, 131 of them have been moved to the ICU.”
In the last 48 hours, 40 people died from coronavirus in Markazi province and 523 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of cases in the province since the pandemic started to 20,192, reported Dr. Mohammad Jamalian, president of Arak University of Medical Sciences. Of the new cases, he said, 82 have been hospitalized and the rest had been quarantined at home until they tested negative. According to him, the total death toll in Arak, the capital of Markazi province, currently stands at 734.
In her daily briefing for October 20, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:
Dr. Lari also reported that out of the 31 Iranian provinces, currently 30 provinces are still in a high state of alert:
This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology