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Unvaccinated Iranians Locked Out of Office Reopenings

October 25, 2021
Pouyan Khoshhal
6 min read
Unvaccinated Iranians Locked Out of Office Reopenings

“Split personality” is a fitting term to describe Iran’s current approach to the pandemic. On the one hand, there are plans to reopen schools and universities, end remote work for all government employees and restart Friday prayers. On the other hand, health experts warn that a sixth fatal coronavirus peak is edging closer.

For this report, we interviewed Hamid Soori, chair of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Epidemiology Committee, and Nejat Bahrami, a political activist and a former official of the Ministry of Education, about the planned reopenings.


Dr. Hamid Soori told IranWire that it was impossible to predict with any certainty the dangers posed by reopenings. As yet, no study has been conducted in Iran on the effectiveness of measures  about the effectiveness of measures like remote working and the closure of schools and universities. But, Soori said, “Measures have been taken to reduce the dangers that might result from reopenings. For instance, only those who have been vaccinated are allowed to enter certain places, or go to work in person. Also, the reopening of the schools is being done in phases.

“But there must be an assessment of what dangers could follow what actions, and decisions must be made based on this. Certain measures that were taken in the past need to be revised, including remote working, which has inflicted serious and irreparable damage to the economy and social relations.”

Whose task is it to conduct such studies? In a country where even the Health Ministry’s statistics on Covid-19 cases and fatalities are treated as “classified” information, can we expect the results of an objective study to be published even if it is conducted at all?

Dr. Soori says such studies are the task of groups and institutions who want to return the country’s situation to normal: “It is the job of the Education Ministry to do studies for schools and responsible officials must do it for government offices, although the management of it finally falls on the National Coronavirus Taskforce. And I must add that, in this regard, a series of plans are being prepared but have not yet been put into action.”

Iran has already gone through five waves of coronavirus infections. The worst was the most recent, when even the official number of fatalities exceeded 700 per day. The previous ones have shown that religious ceremonies and people travelling were among the most serious contributing factors to higher numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and Covid-19 deaths.

Because no study has been conducted about the reopening of schools, universities and government offices, there is no way to accurately predict what will happen next. The only thing that seems highly likely is the prediction by Health Minister Bahram Einollahi, who said the sixth wave could begin in the coming days.

The Ministry of Education has decided that by November 21 all classes must be held in person. It has been reported that university students must also attend classes in person by that date. Besides this, on Tuesday, October 19, it was announced that in Tehran and other big cities, remote working is over for all employees of the state, who must now go back to their offices.

Friday prayers have also resumed in a number of provinces, including Tehran, after a 20-month hiatus due to the pandemic. With the falling temperatures and the arrival of autumn, a surge in both flu and coronavirus infections could be just around the corner.

IranWire asked the chair of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Epidemiology Committee how severe this could be. “Everything depends on policies that we implement, people’s social behavior and mutations of the virus,” he said. “In other words, it is impossible to say whether other peaks will arrive or not.

“We won’t encounter a new peak if we manage the pandemic in more scientific way, if people are made aware that vaccination does not mean the situation has returned to normal, if officials are not hasty in normalizing the situation and, most importantly, if we conduct studies.” He emphasized that haste in reopenings could harm the country: “We’d be forced to pay more to return to the previous conditions.”

Effective Restrictions or Just Words?

Iran’s Department of State for Administration and Employment Affairs has ordered all government organizations to prevent employees who have not had at least a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine from entering their offices, starting on October 23. The Health Ministry has also announced that from October 24, only shops whose employees have received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to remain open.

Dr. Soori believes these orders are practical and useful if carried out effectively: “The names of those who have been vaccinated are on one system or another, and any organization can get the list. I’s not an impossible job, provided the process is supervised and carried out well.”

Nejat Bahrami, a political activist, analyst and a former official of the Education Ministry, took a different view. “I personally do not believe this policy is going to be successful,” she said. “The first issue is the corruption within Iran’s bureaucracy. Because of this, a black market within the system always emerges. For example, it’s very easy to get hold of a vaccination certificate, on paper or in digital form, regardless of whether you’ve really been vaccinated or not. If the order by the Department of State for Administration and Employment Affairs is seriously enforced, many will be driven to obtain false documents.”

More than 90 percent of government employees are also tenured civil servants, Bahrami adds,“and you cannot expel tenured civil servants. The bylaws and disciplinary regulations are very clear and do not greatly affect the behavior of employees. Also, let us imagine that a large number refuse to get vaccinated, and aren’t allowed into the office. In this case it’s the government that loses out, not the employees. There is no rule that can stop their being paid, except in very extreme situations, like their having committed a crime that could result in dismissal from government service.”

Official Coronavirus Statistics

According to the Health Ministry’s weekly statistics, a total of 1,265 patients are known to have lost their lives to Covid-19 in the week ending October 21. With 199 deaths, October 17 had the highest officially-recorded number of fatalities for the week.

At the week’s end, 4,486 Covid-19 patients in Iran were being treated in ICUs. According to the Health Ministry, at the time of writing the total number of vaccine doses injected, both first and second shots, had reached 77,641,350. 

There are currently 9 Iranian cities on red alert for coronavirus transmission. Another 106 are rated orange and 228 are yellow. Currently 105 cities in Iran are on “blue” alert.


Related Coverage:

Friday Prayers Returns to Tehran Despite Sixth Coronavirus Wave

Iranian Study Casts More Doubt on Sinopharm Vaccine

Resistance as Iranian Government Unveils 'Vaccine Passports'

With Covid-19 Still Raging, Iran Switches to Vaccinating Children

Iranian Anti-Vaxxer Protests Dismissed as Over-18s Inoculations Begin

Anti-Vaxxers Invoke Ghasem Soleimani at Tehran Protest

Lies, Misinformation and Makeshift Graves: A Chronology of Coronavirus in Iran

Citizen Journalist Dispatch: Shopkeepers Defying Lockdown Orders

Iranians Demand: “Buy the Vaccine!”



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