In a stunning incidence of history repeating itself, this year it was only after the public celebrations to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution had taken place on February 10 that officials of the Islamic Republic conceded the new coronavirus variant detected in the United Kingdom had spread to various parts of Iran.
Now, scarcely a week later, health chiefs have warned of “horrible consequences” of this variant in Khuzestan and asking for a state of emergency to be declared in this under-resourced province.
ICU wards in five hospitals in the provincial capital of Ahvaz are now at capacity, and news of increasing cases of the coronavirus variant in the provinces of Tehran, Qazvin, Alborz and Ilam have raised fears that this variant is still spreading.
Dr. Payam Tabarsi, head of the infectious diseases ward at Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital, said on February 17 that 24 cases of infection with this variant had so far been confirmed natinowide, and two of the patients had died. But provincial officials report that at least four Covid-19 patients have lost their lives to this variant in just the four provinces mentioned above.
According to Kianoush Jahanpour, the Health Ministry’s director of public relations, 17 cases of this variant had been confirmed by Tuesday, February 16.
Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, who has also now been appointed as the director of Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce, warned of the danger posed by the new variant and asked for a “state of emergency” to be declared in Khuzestan. He reported that lab tests in the past two weeks have found numerous cases of the coronavirus variant in his province.
Elsewhere Dr. Shokrollah Salmanzadeh, president of Abadan University of Medical Sciences, said that cases of the variant had been deteted in the cities of Abadan, Khorramshahr and Shadegan. Tehran’s Pasteur Institute has confirmed that the samples that it received from the city of Shadegan show infection with the variant. Salmanzadeh warned of “horrible consequences” and possibly even “disaster” if this mutated form of the virus continues to spread.
Nine cities in Khuzestan are currently in a state of red alert and there is a chance that due to the infectiousness of the new variant, the same may soon be applied to the other cities in this province. The latest figures indicated that Covid-19 fatalities in Khuzestan had increased by 52 percent compared to the previous week.
According to Dr. Abdolkarim Firouz-Zadeh, vice president of Dezful University of Medical Sciences, if the current trend of rising infections in Dezful continues the city might run out of hospital beds entirely. Currently, he said, Ganjavi Hospital in Dezful is 60 percent full.
Amir al Mo’menin Hospital in Ahvaz is one of those already at capacity. “At this moment we have to keep the patients in emergency ward until a bed is emptied,” said Dr. Mohammad Arezumand, president of the hospital. “It is obvious that when the hospital reaches capacity, the quality of service suffers.”
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for February 17, Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
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.
In the port city of Bandar Abbas, the capital of Hormozgan province, a branch of Bank Sepah was shut down for at least 48 hours for disinfection after inspectors found 50 percent of the employees at this location had been infected with coronavirus since the outbreak. These employees and people who have been in close contact with them are to be quarantined for 14 days.
In Hormozgan province the official Covid-19 death toll has reached 1,016, announced Dr. Fatemeh Noroozian, spokeswoman for Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences. She reported that from the 110 inpatients in hospitals operated by the university, 24 are being treated in intensive care units. Another 1,482 confirmed Covid-19 patients are quarantined in their homes.
Dr. Noroozian warned that the new coronavirus variant poses an especially high risk to Hormozgan because of the large volume of maritime trade that takes place between Bandar Abbas and the Persian Gulf coastal states. Dr. Noroozian also reiterated that travelers to the islands of Qeshm and Hormoz must be tested for coronavirus infection and can only travel to these islands if the test is negative.
In Alborz, with the recorded death of one more Covid-19 patient, the official death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak has now reached 2,719, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours 32 new patients were hospitalized, bringing the total number of inpatients in this province to 276.
In Mazandaran, which had recently been hit by a surge of new coronavirus infections, the number of newly-registered infections is now falling again. At present 911 Covid-19 patients are in treatment centers operated by Mazandaran and Babol Universities of Medical Sciences.
In Qazvin three more Covid-19 patients died in the 24 hours leading to February 17, and the official death toll since the coronavirus outbreak has reached 1,298. In the same period 151 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the province and 31 of these people were hospitalized, bringing the total number of inpatients in the province to 194. Of this number, eight are breathing through ventilators. Since the coronavirus outbreak a total of 17,593 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized in Qazvin.