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.
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: