Outgoing Iranian health minister Saeed Namaki is understood to have missed a meeting of the National Coronavirus Headquarters on Friday that was being chaired by new president Ebrahim Raisi.
The minister’s absence is believed to be linked to growing criticism of the Islamic Republic and the Ministry of Health's policies on Covid-19 vaccine imports.
Over the past 48 hours, hundreds of social media users and a diverse range of journalists, activists and Iranian public figures took part in a social media protest against Namaki's failure to protect Iranians since early 2020, even calling for him to be prosecuted.
Following the meeting, Headquarters spokesman Alireza Raisi said a decision had been taken to impose new restrictions, which would be announced on Saturday.
In the absence of new restrictions, some industry heads had taken matters into their own hands. The Iranian Association of Cinematographers published a statement announcing the closure of cinemas for a week because of the crisis.
Ebrahim Raisi had told the Headquarters meeting Iran would allocate foreign currency reserves to boost the importation of foreign-made vaccines. At least 30 million doses would be procured, he said, agreeing that the country’s domestic production capacity was not up to the task.
Research Deputy Warns Covid-19 Death Toll Could Double Again
Iran is at a critical point in the pandemic, with record numbers of new infections being reported each day. According to official statistics alone, one Iranian citizen is dying every two minutes from Covid-19.
Out of 267,000 tests performed in the country more than 39,000 tested positive, making Iran one of the most infectious countries in the world. A total of 527 Iranian citizens were known to have died of Covid-19 disease in the 24 hours leading up to noon on Friday. Just over 7,000 other patients are currently being treated in ICUs.
The director of Ali Asghar Children's Hospital in Tehran reported on Friday that 50 to 100 youngsters were presenting with Covid-19 symptoms every day. It came after the head of Isfahan’s university hospital warned that an alarming number of children with Covid-19 were going on to contract black fungus infections, which can be fatal.
In a letter to Saeed Namaki dated Friday, August 13, Farid Najafi, Deputy Minister of Research and Technology of the Ministry of Health, had also warned that the daily death toll could rise to “as high as 800 a day” if the current trend continued.
Kianoosh Jahanpour, spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, said on Friday that Iran has enough doses of vaccine to last another 15 days. This was in contrast to comments by Alireza Zali, head of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, who on Wednesday claimed Iran had just five days’ worth of vaccine left in stock.
According to the Ministry of Health, so far 14.5 million Iranians have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine and 3.6m have had both doses. The number of jabs administered has decreased by around 200,000 a day in the latter half of this week.