On the last day of the week ending April 15, the officially-recorded death toll from Covid-19 in Iran stood at 321, a record-breaking figure for a single day. The health minister has warned that the situation will get worse in the coming week.
According to local officials, more than 50 percent of people taking PCR swab tests in some provinces are returning a positive result. This includes Tehran province, where, according to Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, all cities have now been put on red alert at once for the first time.
Confusion still swirls around Iran’s planned vaccination program. This week, President Rouhani said that “despite all efforts” it is unlikely that a domestic vaccine will become available before the summer, and as such, “the government has been given priority to acquiring vaccines with the help of the private sector.”
In the midst of the fourth wave of coronavirus in Iran, according to the World Health Organization, just 200,000 doses of vaccine have so far been administered within a population of 84 million.
Iran has meanwhile imposed a travel ban on 39 countries, announced Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami on April 11. He added that Iranian travel agencies must comply with the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s regulations banning any land trips to and from Turkey, even though flights between the two countries are continuing as normal.
As-Yet Unannounced Restrictions on Ramadan Events
The holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslim are expected to fast, pray and reflect, began this week. Health Minister Saeed Namaki had earlier said that there would be no restrictions on Ramadan religious ceremonies. This week, with Covid-19 figures again on the rise, he clarified that events to mark Laylat al-Qadr, which commemorates the night when Quran was first sent down from Heaven to the Prophet Mohammad, must follow the official health protocols.
According to President Rouhani, however, the protocols for Ramadan ceremonies will only be announced once they have been approved by the National Coronavirus Taskforce. “Under the current conditions,” he said, “our main strategy is to protect people’s lives and health. The protocols will be written in a way that protects people’s lives while they participate in these rituals.”
New Deal to Buy Russian Vaccine – Sometime This Year
Iran has finalized a deal with Russia to purchase 60 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Thursday, April 15. The report quoted Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, as saying a contract for enough vaccinations to inoculate 30 million people had been “signed and finalized”. But Jalali added that Iran will receive the vaccines “by the end of the year”, which is a long time away.
Meanwhile the first shipment of vaccines from COVAX, an international collaboration led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to deliver vaccines equitably across the world, arrived in Iran on Monday, April 12 from the Netherlands, containing 700,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Also on April 15, some 400,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, donated by the Chinese Red Cross, were delivered to Iran by air. Three days earlier, China’s top disease control specialist had admitted that Chinese vaccines currently offer low protection against Covid-19. A few hours later, he backpedaled, publicly qualified his statement and said it had been a “misunderstanding”.
As mentioned above, President Rouhani has said it is unlikely a domestically-produced vaccine will become available before the summer. But on April 15, Health Minister Saeed Namaki contradicted him, stating that “within 20 days” vaccination will expand in Iran using both domestic and imported products.
On the same day, the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute said mass production of its Cov-Pars Covid-19 vaccine would begin in late August. Just a day earlier Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, had claimed that five countries including two European countries had so far asked about purchasing the Iranian-made vaccine.
According to the Ministry of Health, among the more than 12 different firms in Iran that are attempting to produce a vaccine, five companies have so far surpassed the rest. These include the companies involved in the production of a joint vaccine with Cuba in Pasteur Institute, which is set to be mass-produced later this spring.
New Alert Levels: “Black” and “Super-Red”
With the sharp spike in coronavirus infections and fatalities, the Iranian Ministry of Health has added two new alert levels, “black” and “super-red”, to its system for classifying the level of threat posed by the virus in different location. According to the new criteria, 63 cities are currently “black”, 85 are super-red, 176 are red, 78 are orange, 39 are yellow, and seven are blue, the lowest possible alert level until the pandemic is over.
Official Coronavirus Statistics
According to the official statistics announced daily by the health ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, a total of 1,796 patients lost their lives to Covid-19 in the week ending April 15. With 321 deaths, April 15 recorded the highest number of fatalities on a single day, in a week that witnessed a record-breaking number of officially-recorded daily deaths from Covid-19.
At the week’s end, 4,601 Covid-19 patients were being treated in ICUs.
In her latest briefing, Dr. Lari followed the old alert level classification and reported that 295 Iranian cities were on red alert, 99 were orange, 45 were yellow and only nine were blue. No reason was given for the discrepancy in classification and numbers.