Iran’s coronavirus crisis began the very first day the government voiced its first denials: that the virus was anything to worry about and was no more than a bad cold or influenza, that cases had emerged in the holy city of Qom, that Iran's health system might not be able to cope with and treat patients who had contracted it. Today, almost five months later, those denials continue, though the lies have shifted and mutated numerous times since the early days of the pandemic.

IranWire's Shahed Alavi has documented the pandemic in Iran, and the misleading, dangerous and contradictory messages coming from government officials and religious leaders. 

In May, Iranian officials claimed that Iran was a leading manufacturer of coronavirus test kits, while others said United States sanctions had prevented people from accessing the medical equipment they need. At the same time, several provincial governors expressed concerns that cases were on the rise in their towns and cities, even as some industries and businesses, including at the country’s airlines, were beginning to reopen. 

 

Read the full chronology.

 

May 1:

Deputy Health Minister: Second and Third Waves Will Hit Iran in the Fall

The coronavirus epidemic in Khuzestan province is likely to reach an “explosive” level in the coming days and, considering the rapid rise in the number of patients, lockdowns might be re-imposed, warned Ali Ehsanpour, spokesman for Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences.

Saeed Kashmiri, the secretary of Bushehr’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, described the increase in the number of coronavirus patients in Bushehr province as “worrisome.” He said ignoring social distancing and the increase in travel had contributed to the surge.

Second and third waves of coronavirus will definitively come in the fall, warned Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, a deputy health minister. He said that a number of Iranian companies were trying to produce a vaccine against coronavirus but that it was not something that was easy to do. Claims made around the world are mostly for publicity, he said.

Tehran Governor Isa Farhadi announced that, starting on May 2, wearing masks will be mandatory in Tehran’s public transportation, including the metro, the buses and in taxis. The rule must be strictly observed, he said. 

Ninety percent of companies who bought foreign currency at the cheap official price of 4,200 tomans per US dollar were companies that only exist on paper and were registered after 2017, said Hossein Ali Haji-Deligani, a member of the parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee. “Unfortunately, these cheap currencies have been spent on things that we did not need,” he added. Some of these companies, he said, resold the dollars in the open market at three times the price for which they had been bought.

President Rouhani ordered the health minister to draw up sanitary guidelines for reopening businesses and places where there were likely to be crowds and submit them at the National Coronavirus Taskforce meeting on May 3.

Ahmad Elmolhoda, Mashhad’s Friday Imam, said that coronavirus cannot be eradicated, and that the threat of the virus would be present in Iran for some time. Closing mosques and shrines was not going to make it go away.

Education Minister Mohsen Haji Mirzaei said that just 60 percent of students with internet connection and smartphones have access to the Education Ministry’s Social Network of Students (SHAD in Persian) for remote learning. On April 21, the minister had claimed that 90 percent of students could access the network, although a short while earlier he had put the number at 70 percent. At the same time, a member of the parliament claimed that only 30 percent of students had access to SHAD.

Senior Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi claimed that 116 cities were out of danger and on May 2, it will be decided when religious, cultural and sports centers in these cities will reopen.

After a month during which the epidemic in Mazandaran province was relatively stable, the number of Covid-19 infections in the province began climbing again and more patients had been hospitalized than released from hospitals, according to the official news agency IRNA.

 

May 2:

Domestic Violence and Suicides Increased During Quarantine

Senior Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi claimed that only 72 cities in Iran with high numbers of coronavirus infections were in a state of “red” or high-risk alert, but warned that if precautions were not taken in less dangerous areas, where “yellow” and “white” alerts were in place, they could be re-classified as “red” alert areas.  He also warned that infections and hospitalizations might rise in some provinces, that the current decline and relative stability is very fragileand that carelessness at gatherings and at re-opened businesses could lead to big problems.

Out of 15 babies suspected of coronavirus infection who had been hospitalized at Be’sat Hospital in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, four have tested positive with coronavirus and, so far, three children have died in the hospital from the virus, according the hospital’s president, Borhan Morad Veisi. Of the 13 pregnant women who had been hospitalized, six have tested positive, he added. He said that the reopening of businesses and people ignoring sanitary guidelines had resulted in an increase in infections in Sanandaj.

The increase in the number of coronavirus patients in the city of Khash in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan is worrisome and the virus continues to claim victims, said Reza Kord, director of the Khash Health Network.

While the coronavirus epidemic has been ravaging the country, a number of private hospitals in Iran have been dismissing their health workers over pay. One government-owned health facility, Abu Ali Sina Hospital in Shiraz, followed suit by firing at least 30 of its health workers after they objected to a 50 percent pay cut.

With the increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the province of Khuzestan and especially in the metropolis of Ahvaz, Khuzestan’s Governor Gholamreza Shariati warned that the possibility of a cholera epidemic was also threatening the province.

Coronavirus is still spreading, and we must not be deceived by the drop in the statistics, warned Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran’s Coronavirus Taskforce. The spikes and falls in the statistics show that the situation is quite fragile and unstable, he said.

Without people’s cooperation, the coronavirus epidemic will not be contained, warned Hossein Kalantari, the governor of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad province. He said that people must avoid participating in wedding and mourning ceremonies to prevent another coronavirus disaster in the province.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei denied that institutions such as Qom Seminary had been pressuring the government to reopen religious sites and said that religious authorities’ support for experts in relevant medical fields had been “historically unique.”

 Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, claimed that, compared with other countries that have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the current level of domestic violence in Iran is not severe; the situation in Iran is even better than the global average, she said. But Hoda Haghighi, Social Affairs Deputy for the Welfare Organization of Qazvin province said that home quarantine in Qazvin has led to a 120 percent increase in domestic incidents.

Compared to early 2019, during the quarantine period Isfahan province witnessed an increase of 47 percent in domestic quarrels and a 26 percent increase in spousal abuse, said Mojtaba Naji, deputy head of Isfahan’s Welfare Bureau. According to him, suicides and attempted suicides have also grown three-fold.

Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, a senior health ministry official, claimed that, according to the statistics, even in the places in Iran where coronavirus has hit hardest, less than 10 percent of people have been infected, meaning that 90 percent have escaped infection. Dr. Gouya did not say how these statistics had been arrived at, or specify what percentage of the people in these cities had been tested.

 

May 3:

Iran Participates in World Health Organization’s Drugs Testing Project

This year there will be no rally to commemorate Quds Day, an annual event to show solidarity with Palestinians and condemn Zionism, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif said, Ayatollah Khamenei will deliver a speech.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei tweeted that a report prepared for the National Coronavirus Taskforce estimates that 83 percent of Iranians are following sanitary guidelines - but this number drops to just 62 in Tehran.

Due to the high number of infections in a few cities in Khuzestan province and especially in its capital, Ahvaz, the provincial Security Council may quarantine the city in the next three days if people and businesses continue to ignore the safety guidelines, warned a spokesman for Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce. Farhad Abolnejadian, head of Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences, has said that force will be used if necessary to ensure social distancing is observed in the province.

Owners of rental properties must renew their leases for two months before May 20 on the same terms as before, said government spokesman Ali Rabiei. The decision was made by the National Coronavirus Taskforce to give landlords and tenants enough time to arrive at a new contract, or for the tenant to find a new place of residence, if required.

Even with the arrival of warmer weather, infections in Hormozgan province and especially in Bandar Abbas have not declined - and in fact, this number has increased, reported Hossein Farshidi, President of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences.

The World Health Organization has delivered four drugs to Iran ahead of its participation in the “Solidarity Trial”: a global effort to find an effective treatment for COVID-19. The Solidarity Trial is a large, international study designed to discover which treatments for COVID-19 are the most effective. More than 100 countries all over the world are participating. Two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, including Iran, are taking part.

At a meeting of National Coronavirus Taskforce, President Rouhani said that mosques in 132 cities declared to be in a "white" situation would reopen on May 4, and schools on May 16. He also claimed that more than 400 special hospital beds and around 1,000 ventilators have been added to the health network because it is not clear when the epidemic will end.

Drinking wood alcohol has poisoned 866 people and has killed 101 in Fars province alone, reported Mohammad Javad Moradian, the head of Fars Emergency Services.

The number of coronavirus infections in the province of North Khorasan has increased and we must expect a significant surge in the coming days, warned Ahmad Hashemi, head of North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences.

Yousef Kazemi, medical advisor to the governor of North Khorasan, has warned that some provinces do not correctly report coronavirus statistics. He has also asked the province’s University of Medical Sciences to publish accurate local figures on coronavirus infections and fatalities.

 

May 4:

World Health Organization: Cover-up and Lack of Transparency Led to Many Deaths in Iran

Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi warned that coronavirus can spread in hot weather, citing reports that 107 people in a fish market in the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan province, where the temperature has been 35 degrees centigrade, had tested positive.

Khuzestan’s provincial government asked people to once again stay at home and not to go outside unless it is essential. It was also announced that a third of office workers must be given leaves of absence on a rotation basis and that sports clubs, coffee shops, fast food outlets and restaurants, except for those offering take-out food, must close.

On May 4, Hendijan, Hoveyzeh and Izeh, three cities in Khuzestan, were declared to be “normal,” but immediately afterward it was reported that more than 26 new Covid-19 patients had been identified in these cities.

Health minister Saeed Namaki criticized the National Development Fund’s delay in the payment of one billion euros to fight coronavirus. On April 6, Ayatollah Khamenei agreed to the transfer of the funds after an 11-day delay, posting on Twitter that it was a gift from heaven.

“Iran is also looking to supply its own medical requirements and equipment according to its medical needs, but unfortunately, due to the US' illegal and unilateral sanctions, companies producing these items are not able to offer their products to Iran when needed,” President Rouhani claimed during a virtual summit of the heads of the Non-Aligned Movement. “Due to this anti-human rights action by the United States, the provision of medical supplies for Iran has naturally taken longer and has sometimes been impossible, and Iran's targeted program to combat the spread of the virus has become difficult and challenging.”

The National Coronavirus Taskforce announced that all government sports centers and private sports clubs will remain closed until further notice.

Coronavirus infections in 15 provinces including Qom, Khuzestan, Kermanshah and Gilan are increasing, while in nine provinces numbers of cases are declining, the health ministry’s Epidemiology Committee announced.

In order that mosques and shrines in areas that are safe can reopen, it is mandatory that congregations and all visitors wear masks and gloves, the health ministry announced. The guidelines also ban the serving of food and tea at religious sites.

A report produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) team that visited Tehran has revealed that coronavirus was spreading in Iran weeks before the official government announcement. The report was based on official government documents, but the investigation carried out and the evidence collected by the WHO agents show that in many cases, cover-up and a lack of transparency led to the deaths of many Iranians.

Dr. Sorena Sattari, President Rouhani’s vice president for science and technology, claimed that Iran is currently able to produce one million coronavirus test kits every day and that in the coming days it will export test kits to Turkey and Germany. He did not explain why Iran only conducts between 10,000 and 12,000 tests per day if it is able to produce a million test kits.

Emphasizing that no part of the country is currently in a “normal” situation, the health ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour reported that, in the 24 hours ending at 12 noon on May 4, 74 Covid-19 patients had died. But, according to information that IranWire has exclusively received from Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery, in Tehran alone, 30 people died in the same 24-hour period.

According to Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, the rapid rise of Covid-19 cases in the province is due to the increase in gatherings, including long lines inside government offices, indoor spaces that lack proper ventilation.

An investigative report by BBC Arabic revealed that the Iranian airline Mahan Air transported the first coronavirus-infected passengers from Iran to Iraq and Lebanon and dozens of this airline’s flight crew had shown symptoms of infections, but that all Mahan Air employees were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements about the flights and the crew; if they broke this agreement they would be tried and punished.

 

May 5:

Iran Exports Coronavirus Test Kits that are Desperately Needed in the Country

The haste in returning life to normal poses the danger of new waves of coronavirus infections, warned Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, adding that Tehran is still in the midst of the epidemic. 

Mohammad Gharavi, a member of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom, claimed that Friday Prayers in the mosque under his supervision have not been suspended even once and said he had held all religious ceremonies for the Muslim calendar month of Sha’ban. This contradicts the claims made by government officials and the National Coronavirus Taskforce, which has asserted that religious gatherings are prohibited until further notice. In the interview during which he made his claims, Gharavi refused to name the mosque he runs or to provide its address.

According to a study by Beheshti University Medical School, approximately 50 percent of those who have recovered from Covid-19 in Tehran are suffering from psychological problems.

All airlines must provide passengers with sanitary kits including masks, and all passengers must use these kits during flights, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization announced.

Khuzestan governor Gholamreza Shariati stated that prior to April 3, when social distancing was being practiced, very few people had been infected with coronavirus, but after social distancing rules were relaxed — in some areas this happened unofficially as early as the first week in April — and especially over the last 10 days, the number of infections has risen.

Data regarding the number of hospitalizations show that the province of Qom is still in a “red” or critical state, said Bahram Sarmast, governor of the province.

Akbar Behnamjou, governor of Ardebil province, reported that in recent days the number of coronavirus infections in some cities of the province had been rising.

The health ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the ministry could not provide the list of cities that are currently safer, in other words, cities considered to be in a “white” or relatively clear state regarding risk. He said there was no central authority to evaluate whether a city is in a “white,” “yellow” or “red” state of alert. He added that a city can only be declared to be “white” for a period of five days, after which this was no longer a valid assessment. The city in question, he said, could change to “yellow” or “red” after that. He warned that nobody knows whether Iran will face a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the coming days or not.

Jahanpour also claimed that Iran is currently self-sufficient in producing test kits and other medical items and surplus supplies will be exported or donated to other countries. At the same time that Jahanpour made this claim, the Islamic Republic was telling the world that American sanctions had prevented Iran from having access to necessary equipment to fight the coronavirus epidemic in Iran.

Mehr News Agency reported that 40,000 test kits made by an Iranian company have been exported to Germany, described by Jahanpour as “surplus” kits. This claim is wrong because the populations of Iran and Germany are almost equal, so their needs for tests kits must be similar too. Germany, however, has conducted more than 30,000 coronavirus tests per million people, whereas Iran has only tested 6,000 per million. The claim of sending out “surplus” kits is valid only if Iran conducts a similar number of per capita tests.

In early April, while Iran conducted around 50,000 coronavirus tests per week, Germany tested around 350,000 people. Currently, Iran conducts close to 80,000 tests, whereas Germany tests over 125,000 people per week. If the report by Mehr News Agency is true and Iran has indeed exported test kits to Germany, then the only reason could be to make money, while ignoring the lives of Iranians who become infected with coronavirus and die or suffer complications; often their illnesses are misrepresented as “severe pulmonary syndrome.”

 

May 8

Mashhad Friday Imam: Coronavirus is a Phenomenal “Gift from God”

As long as the coronavirus epidemic in Tehran is not contained, the epidemic will not be controlled across Iran, even if the contagion falls to an acceptable level in other parts of the country, warned Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce. “In Tehran we are still submerged in the first wave of this disease and the epidemic has not subsided,” he said.

Bahram Sarmast, the governor of Qom province, warned that the situation in the city of Qom is still at red alert and, as a result, life cannot return to normal and religious sites cannot be opened.

Coronavirus has killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world and has caused economic misery and poverty for Iran and for people everywhere. And yet Ahmad Alamolhoda, Mashhad’s Friday Imam called it phenomenal “gift from God” because Iran now produces medical equipment and “exports test kits to countries that claim they are developed and called us developing.”

Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Bureau, said that research conducted in Iran into the use of the influenza drug Favipiravir to treat Covid-19 is its final stages but that, as of now, the results have not been encouraging. However, if it proves to be effective it will be manufactured domestically, he said. 

Against all evidence to the contrary, Abdolnaser Hemmati, the governor of Iran’s Central Bank, claimed that Iran’s passage through the coronavirus crisis has been more sure-footed and calmer than many other countries and, when it comes to foreign currency, Iran is in better shape than it was two years ago.

Five cities in Khuzestan that have been announced as being out of severe danger, or in the so-called “white” category when it comes to levels of alert, are not actually white, according to Farhad Abolnejadian, acting director of the Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences. He said that he hoped senior officials of Khuzestan can work together and agree to impose stricter sanitary rules for the province.

Mohammad Jazayeri, the head of Iran’s Viral Diseases Network, warned that when quarantine was lifted in mid-May, the country might witness a second wave of Covid-19.

Reuters reported that a series of studies of the genomes taken from thousands of samples of the new coronavirus show that it is mutating and evolving as it adapts to its human hosts, but that this does not yet mean that there are necessarily different strains of the virus currently in circulation, as some Chinese researchers had suggested earlier.

 

May 9

Cyber Police Arrested 320 People for “Rumor-Mongering” About Coronavirus

Iranian Cyber Police arrested 320 people and took action against 13,00 websites for spreading falsehoods and rumor-mongering about the coronavirus epidemic, which was “troubling the public mind,” said Hossein Ashtari, the commander of the national police. He stopped short of providing further information about the fate of the detainees.

Khuzestan governor Gholamreza Shariati confirmed that coronavirus infections were on the rise in the province but denied reports that hospitals had no available beds, stating that out of 180 intensive care unit beds available, only 140 were in use at the time. He also said he was waiting to see if the province would be re-imposing restrictions, based on recommendations from Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences and the Coronavirus Taskforce.

Figures on new hospitalizations and coronavirus patients released from hospitals showed that the epidemic had reached a relative equilibrium, and yet Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran coronavirus Taskforce, reiterated warnings that the city of Tehran is still a center of contagion and any relaxing of sanitary of hygiene precautions could have serious consequences. 

Health minister Saeed Namaki also warned that the fall season in Iran would be difficult because a further coronavirus outbreak was expected, which was expected to coincide with an outbreak of influenza.

Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, president of Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital and the senior adviser in international affairs to the Supreme Leader in international affairs, reported that 10 percent of the hospital's employees had contracted coronavirus. Velayati, who had contracted coronavirus himself, did not explain why sanitary precautions had been ignored during the first meeting about the virus at the hospital, a meeting over which he had presided.

A group of nurses in the northern province of Gilan, which has been hit hard by the epidemic, staged a protest rally, stating that, unlike other nurses working with coronavirus patients, they had been denied insurance and benefits awarded to most contract personnel.

As of May 9, approximately 420 Iranian medical staff, including doctors, nurses and hospital workers, have contracted coronavirus and close to 110 of them have died, according to Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, president of Iran’s Medical Council.

The economic hardship people were facing was further proven by reports that in February, following the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran, more than one million checks, worth around 1.77 billion tomans or $118 million, were bounced. Compared to a month earlier, these figures show an increase of 44 percent in the number of bounced checks and around a 52 percent increase in value.

The health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour claimed that, except for Khuzestan province, which was in a worrisome situation, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations in every other province was on a downward curve.

Jahanpour also reported that the World Health Organization had donated 100,000 coronavirus test kits to Iran. Only a few days earlier, on May 5, Jahanpour had claimed that Iran was now self-sufficient in producing test kits and other medical items and that the surplus equipment would be exported or donated to other countries On the same day, Mehr News Agency reported that 40,000 Iranian-manufactured test kits had been exported to Germany, goods that Jahanpour claimed were “surplus.”

Despite Jahangiri’s assurances that coronavirus was on a “downward curve” in all provinces except one, Dr. Masoud Mardani, a specialist in contagious diseases and a member of the National Committee on Coronavirus, warned that the number of new cases of Covid-19 infections in some provinces, including Tehran, Khuzestan, Semnan, Mazandaran and Gilan, were rising and people should be aware that the epidemic was not over.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a Chinese company had donated three scanner gates to the holy shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad and that they will be used to measure the body temperatures of pilgrims.

Although the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities in Iran has been declining over the last few weeks and will continue to go down for the next few months, we must expect for it to rise in some provinces, warned Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi. He said the numbers in Tehran continue to cause concern, and if the re-opening of businesses and buildings in any city leads to an increased spread of the disease, more strict measures will be taken.

Harirchi also said that if the decline in cases continued, it would be likely that after the end of the holy month of Ramadan on May 23, the National Coronavirus Taskforce would allow universities to reopen but attendance in classes would be voluntary.

Approximately 19,000 people suspected of having coronavirus have been quarantined in the province of Zanjan, and 10,000 tests have returned more than a thousand positive results, even though more than 50 percent of these people did not show any symptoms, according to Dr. Parviz Ghezelbash, the president of Zanjan University of Medical Sciences.

May 10

800,000 Have Asked for Unemployment Insurance Payments but not Received it

Foreign airline flights over Iran, which numbered over 900 a day prior to the coronavirus outbreak, has fallen to around 200 a day and the country’s income derived from this source has significantly declined, according to Ahsan Alavi, the deputy chairman of the parliament’s Committee on Development.

Khuzestan’s Bureau of Prisons announced that a group of inmates in the province had tested positive for coronavirus and had been quarantined, but said there was no need to hospitalize them outside the prison. Considering the Iranian prison system’s hygiene record and its history of taking care of the medical problems of inmates, the claim that there was “no need” could not be taken seriously.

Sanctions, the coronavirus epidemic, the drop in oil prices and global economic recession have presented Iran with a difficult and dangerous situation. However, excluding national mineral resources, the government has liquid assets worth 7,000 trillion tomans, or $470 billion.

Dr. Masoud Mardani, a specialist in contagious diseases and a member of the National Committee on Coronavirus warned the provinces of Khuzestan, Tehran, Semnan and Gilan remain in a critical condition and the number of coronavirus infections in these provinces is increasing exponentially. On the same day, however, the health ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour claimed that only Khuzestan is experiencing an “alarming” situation and other provinces are in “stable” conditions.

Since the coronavirus epidemic started, 800,000 people have applied for unemployment insurance payments, but not even one of them has received anything, according to Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi, a member of the parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee.

Because of the spike in coronavirus infections in the port of Abadan in Khuzestan, the city has been totally quarantined. Offices and banks have been closed and more checkpoints to restrict travel and manage traffic were put in place, the Abadan governor Zeinolabedin Mousavi announced. Khuzestan’s provincial government announced that it was going to close all offices and banks in nine cities for six days and only supermarkets, bakeries, butchers and grocery stores would be allowed to remain open.

The West has failed to confront coronavirus, Ayatollah Khamenei announced in a video conference with members of the National Coronavirus Taskforce. “This failure manifested itself in three areas: managerial capability, social philosophy and morality,” he said. “The large number of people infected, the high number of deaths in the US and in certain European countries, and the problems the people are experiencing in those countries – including unemployment – prove their inability to deal with this problem.” In contrast, Khamenei boldly praised the Islamic Republic for its success and said “a truly impressive and praiseworthy feat was accomplished in the areas of treatment, various healthcare services, prevention, screening, and the disinfection of public places.”

But at the same time, Ali Maher, head of planning for the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, warned that infections in the capital were growing and asked for working hours to be staggered so that people could avoid rush hours.

Schools would reopen starting on May 16, said Education Minister Mohsen Haji-Mirzaei, but students were not required to attend school, and he urged them not to unless they had specific educational needs that could only be met in the classroom. 

During a meeting of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, the health minister Saeed Namaki said it was wrong and stupid to believe that coronavirus had disappeared, and warned that if the virus mutated and posed new risks, the situation could be become very dangerous again. 

 

May 11

Germany and Turkey Said they Haven’t Received Coronavirus Test Kits From Iran

Turkish diplomatic sources refuted a claim by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that his country had sent 40,000 domestically produced coronavirus test kits to Turkey. “We [have] sent 40,000 advanced Iran-made test kits to Germany, Turkey and others,” Zarif had tweeted on May 8. Germany had earlier denied receiving test kits from Iran.

On May 11, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, president of Qom University of Medical Sciences, warned that in the previous 24 hours the number of patients with coronavirus symptoms who attended treatment centers had increased by 40 percent, and this might mean that Qom province might have to be put back on red alert.

Saeed Kashmiri, the president of Bushehr University of Medical Sciences, said the situation in the province was becoming more dangerous due to the high volume of traffic between Khuzestan and northern Bushehr, which was spreading the epidemic.

The reopening of mosques and other religious sites has been a source of both confusion and caused clashes between various government officials and religious leaders since the beginning of the quarantine period. Mohammad Qomi, the president of Islamic Development Organization, said that all mosques in Iran would reopen on May 12, making sure to observe sanitary protocols. The Center for Managing Mosque Affairs, a body created by the order of Ayatollah Khamenei, said that it was not aware of any such plan. A few hours later, Mohammad Qomi amended his earlier statements and said that the mosque would reopen for three nights only for two hours each night to celebrate Laylat al-Qadr, the night that Muslims believe the first verses of Koran were revealed to Prophet Mohammad.

Mohammad Mohsen Baigi, the director general of the education ministry’s health department, said that students and teachers who suffer from health conditions that makes them vulnerable to coronavirus are not allowed to attend school and emphasized that the students could only go to school if a face-to-face meeting was necessary. He added that students must wear masks and gloves.

Tahereh Zahed-Sefat, the director of the Nursing School of Gilan University of Medical Sciences, reported that many nurses in the hard-hit province had been infected with coronavirus and there was a severe shortage of medical staff. Furthermore, Iran’s Nursing Council reported that, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, the university hired 300 nurses, promising them full employment but was currently only offering them only an 89-day contract without benefits. It was also reported that, at that time, nine nurses had died of Covid-19 in the province.

Khuzestan was on red alert and the number of coronavirus infections had increased by 300 percent, reported Gholamreza Shariati, the governor of Khuzestan. He said the fatality rate in the province stood at 5.3 percent, a very high figure compared to the international average, but he refused to divulge the exact number.

May 12

Iran’s Petroleum Industry Hit Hard

As an attempt to justify why Khuzestan was failing to release coronavirus statistics broken down city by city, Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, the president of Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences, claimed that it would be “mentally upsetting” for individual cities. As a result, he said, it had been decided that only total numbers for the entire province would be announced. He did, however, warn that the coronavirus epidemic in Khuzestan was at its peak.

Abolnejadian also reported that the names of coronavirus patients who had not been hospitalized had been given to local police stations because they were required to quarantine themselves at home, but that many were not and the police would have to verify whether they were following the guidance or not.

At that time, at least 119 nurses, doctors and medical staff working in Iran’s health system had died because of coronavirus, said Maryam Hazrati, the health ministry’s deputy for nursing affairs. She added, however, that she was not aware of the exact numbers and that that announcement must come from another department at the health ministry.

In early April, 71 percent of Tehran residents considered Covid-19 to be a very dangerous disease but, according to a survey conducted in early May, that number had fallen to only 46 percent, despite the fact that the epidemic was not in decline, said Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus task force, describing this attitude as “worrisome.”

Dr. Zali also recommended that individuals over age 65 or under 18 and those who suffer from heart and lung ailments, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma should not participate in May ceremonies to celebrate the revelation of the Koran to the Prophet Mohammad. 

Oil minister Bijan Zangeneh announced that Iranian oil, gas and petrochemical industries had been hit hard by both the coronavirus epidemic and the fall in the international demand for their products, and some of the high-level projects in the sector had been suspended. He promised that those who had lost their jobs due to the situation would be given new opportunities.

The welfare organizations of Isfahan, Alborz, Golestan, Ilam and North Khorasan officially announced that the rate of domestic violence had risen considerably since the coronavirus epidemic started. Emergency calls linked to domestic violence had increased anywhere from 10 to 50 percent. According to the parliament’s Research Center, more than six million jobs had been lost due to coronavirus and that the situation has led to domestic quarrels. These numbers, however, were denounced by some senior government officials and the media close to the Revolutionary Guards as attempts to “blackwash” the Islamic Republic.

Hamzeh Brujeni, director general of West Azerbaijan prisons, claimed that reports of unrest at Urmia Central Prison in protest against unsanitary conditions at the prison were untrue and, as of that moment, no cases of coronavirus had been observed at the province’s prisons — a claim that would have been very difficult to accept anywhere in the world.

 Alireza Biglari, the director of Iran’s Pasteur Institute, claimed that serological antibody tests used to diagnosis coronavirus were of no use and that the best way of diagnosing this virus was via molecular tests (known as PCR or polymerase chain reaction). He explained that antibody tests only reveal past infections, not new ones.

The number of coronavirus infections in Lorestan province was increasing and the province was still on red alert, warned Musa Khademi from the provincial government. He reported that in the five cities of Khorramabad, Borujerd, Delfan, Dorud and Azna, a state of emergency had been declared.

 

 

May 13

70 Doctors Contract Coronavirus Because of Shortage of Protective Gear

As of May 13, around 70 doctors have been infected with coronavirus and two have died in the city of Mashhad due to a shortage of protective gear in a private treatment center, announced Ali Birjandinejad, president of the Mashhad Medical Council. The council, he said, had pre-paid for the protective gear and but is having trouble getting it. Earlier, officials from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences had claimed that no doctor in the city had died from coronavirus.

Between May 12 and May 13, 120 people tested positive for coronavirus in Fars province and the number of known infections in the province had increased to 4,427, according to Abdolrasoul Hemmati, president of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce said that, in the same 24-hour period, the total number of hospitalizations for coronavirus in Tehran province had dropped by 8.5 percent and the curve of infections in Tehran was going down. However, he warned, Tehran is still in a fragile and unstable situation.

According to a decision taken by the National Coronavirus Taskforce, announced Mahmoud Mahmoodzadeh, Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Developmen, the courts will not issue eviction notices for tenants who have not paid rent so they will be able to remain in accommodation.  

The main reason for the spread of coronavirus in Khuzestan province is crowds at wedding and mourning ceremonies, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, in an attempt to blame the public instead of the failure of the government to inform people, enforce strict guidelines and adequately provide treatment centers and hospitals with what they need in this crisis.

 

May 14

Quarantines Return to Several Cities 

With the jump in number of coronavirus cases, Khorramabad, the capital of Lorestan province, is back in quarantine, announced Jafar Toulabi, the city’s governor. He said that restrictions would remain in place until the city returns to a safer alert level. 

Academic staff at Chamran University in Ahvaz warned that Covid-19 was surging again in Khuzestan and blamed provincial officials for their lack of decisive action and because they allowed large crowds to gather in streets and in markets. In response to the surge, the Khuzestan governor had ordered the closure of banks, offices and non-essential business for six days in nine cities in the province including Ahvaz, Dezful, Shushtar and Majed Soleyman.

While infections and fatalities in Khuzestan province have increased, As’ad Sharhani, a member of Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce, said that it had opposed the re-opening of businesses and offices and had repeatedly asked for these re-openings to be delayed, but the National Coronavirus Taskforce in Tehran was very late in agreeing with their request and many places had opened in early May. 

The hospitalization of coronavirus patients in Khuzestan province increased by 60 percent during the second week of May, according to Gholamreza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan. More alarming, he said, was that the number of walk-in patients who are infected with coronavirus has grown three-fold.

The governor attributed this increase partly to more testing being done and said there are now five test laboratories in the province. He said in a 24-hour period, the lab had carried out more than 1,275 tests and that the hope to increase it to 1,500 a day.  Shariati warned that although the health facilities in the province had so far not been overwhelmed, they are still limited in their resources and that if people failed to observe the sanitary guidelines “we could suddenly face problems.”

With the reopening of religious sites, schools and universities Iran might witness another peak in the coronavirus epidemic, warned Davoud Yadegari, president of the Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Research Center. He also warned, as others before him had, that in the coming winter, seasonal diseases such as influenza would make it more difficult for both patients and doctors to distinguish between coronavirus and influenza cases. Iran must come up with a comprehensive plan for vaccinating people against influenza, he said. 

Ardebil province continues to be in a state of high alert, although the number of coronavirus cases have declined, warned Shahram Habibzadeh, president of Ardebil University of Medical Sciences. He encouraged people to pay more attention to sanitary guidelines, especially social distancing.

Hossein Farshidi, the president of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, described the increase in diagnosed coronavirus cases in the second week of May as “dangerous and worrisome.” He said that 10,023 people in the province had been tested for coronavirus and reported that 1,280 business were shut down for failing to follow sanitary protocols.

 

May 15

Tehran’s Mayor: 50 Percent of Coronavirus Transmissions Happen on Public Transport

Over the last two days, 30 percent of people who have been tested for coronavirus in East Azerbaijan province have tested positive, reported Mohammad Hossein Sumi, president of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences. People are behaving as if the situation is normal and are ignoring social distancing, he said, and if this continues we must expect worse in the days to come.

Coronavirus infections in North Khorasan province have increased in the last three days and more strict social distancing rules will be enforced, announced Valiollah Hayati, deputy governor of the province. And, in the neighboring North Khorasan, Ahmad Hashemi, director of the province’s University of Medical Sciences, reported that North Khorasan has a shortage of infectious diseases specialists and, although enough tests kits are available, the province’s single test lab for coronavirus was unable process more than 100 tests a day because of the time that process takes. 

Of more than 1,100 medical personnel and staff at Greater Dezful Hospital, 40 have been infected with coronavirus, reported the hospital’s president Ali Bakhtiari. He said that this rate of infection represented about three percent of the staff and is “reasonable” compared to the rate of infections in other hospitals.

Close to 50 percent of coronavirus infections take place in vehicles used to transport the public and more than 300 taxi drivers in Tehran have contracted the virus, reported Tehran’s Mayor Pirouz Hanachi.

Hossein Erfani, the head of the Health Ministry’s Contagious Diseases Department, said that it was wrong to assume that the coronavirus epidemic in Tehran and that epidemiological indicators do not support this view.

Khuzestan province remained in a "red" state of alert in terms of coronavirus. The provinces of Lorestan, Sistan and Baluchistan and East Azerbaijan are “on alert,” said the health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He claimed that the number of coronavirus fatalities in Iran had reached 6,902, a figure disputed by independent sources as being too low.

Although the education ministry’s Social Network of Students (SHAD in Persian) for remote learning has left Iranian teachers, students and families angry and unhappy in terms of the levels of support it  offered, the education minister Mohsen Haj Mirzaei announced that Iran was ready to share the program with other Islamic countries for free. He also claimed that most students had access to SHAD, a claim not supported by evidence. However, at the same time, he complained that sanctions had hurt the government’s efforts to provide communication equipment such as tablets and smartphones.

Fereydoon Hemmati, Hormozgan’s governor, warned that in recent days the coronavirus epidemic had been intensifying in Hormozgan and there was the danger that the province might find itself in the same situation as in Khuzestan. Nevertheless, Friday Prayers, seen as a major source of coronavirus transmission, were held in six cities in the province.

May 16

Schools Reopen, but Attendance is Voluntary

After a three-month shutdown, all schools across Iran reopened for a month, except in Khuzestan province. However, students were urged not to attend school unless it was necessary and encouraged to use the education ministry’s remote learning app and system if possible.

Schools that did reopen their doors were told they must follow sanitary protocols, make it possible for social distancing to be observed and be equipped for soap to last at least two weeks. Authorities said masks and gloves for students would be the responsibility of parents. 

According to the daily report by the health ministry’s Epidemiology Committee, the coronavirus epidemic was on a upward curve or has reached a peak in 11 Iranian provinces.

Between May 13 and May 16, an average of 20 people had become infected with coronavirus in the southern areas of Sistan and Baluchistan province, according to Ebrahim Jangizehi, vice president of Sistan and Baluchistan University of Medical Science. He blamed the infections mainly on the failure to observe social distancing.

Dr. Alireza Zali, the director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that the number of coronavirus cases in the capital was slowly coming down and that in a 24-hour period covering May 15 and May 16,  the number of Covid-19 fatalities had been the lowest since the epidemic started in Tehran. But he warned that people must not let their guards down and ignore sanitary guidelines.

By grotesquely comparing the fight against coronavirus to a political football match between countries, health minister Saeed Namaki claimed that Iran had managed the epidemic so well that that “in this game” Iran was five to one ahead of the United States and Europe. But he did, perhaps inadvertently, concede that in the US and Europe, in the worst case scenario, per every 1,000 people in the population, the number of hospital beds is five to seven times higher and the number of nurses per hospital bed is three times higher than in Iran.

No cities in Lorestan are at a low alert level, warned Musa Khademi, the governor of the province, stating that cities were either in a state of “yellow” (serious) or “red” (danger) alert. He reported that the number of infections in the province has doubled since April 20 and asked Iranians not to travel to Lorestan because of its good climate.

To deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus epidemic, 1.286 trillion tomans (over $85.7 million) was allocated to the Unemployment Insurance Fund of the Social Security Organization, announced Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the head of the Planning and Budget Organization.

Data shows that a second wave of coronavirus epidemic has started in Iran, announced Sara Shahabadi, the director of Kermanshah province’s Disease Control Group. 

Conceding that people had not been properly educated about “smart” social distancing, President Rouhani announced that, after the end of the holy month of Ramadan on May 23, restaurants, shrines and religious sites would be allowed to be open for three hours in the mornings and three hours in the evenings, but that they must follow sanitary guidelines. Large crowds would remain banned, he said.

May 17

Rouhani: Iran’s Football Leagues to Resume with No Spectators 

Iran’s football leagues will resume after the holy month of Ramadan on May 24 but games must be played behind closed doors, and with strict health protocols in place, announced President Rouhani.

Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi had previously said that Iran could “finish the current season in six weeks and teams will have three weeks to prepare for the competitions.”

Tehran’s Coronavirus Taskforce has agreed that street vendors in Tehran can resume their work in designated open-air spaces. The move was announced Zahra Nejad-Bahram, a member of Tehran City Council’s board of directors. It is estimated that more than 9,000 people in Tehran make a living by selling their wares on the street, and many have been devastated by the coronavirus epidemic as they do not get any help from the government or from unemployment insurance.

Infections in eight provinces: Lorestan, Markazi, North Khorasan, Kurdistan, Khuzestan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Gilan and Hormozgan are increasing, reported the health ministry’s epidemiology committee. In the five provinces of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, Semnan, Zanjan, Razavi Khorasan and Tehran, however, the curve has been descending.

Three million Iranian households least able to support themselves have each received between 200,000 and 600,000 tomans ($12-$36) in the past four months, reported Mohammad Shariatmadari, Iran’s minister of labor, cooperatives and Social Welfare. as of now, he said, 700,00 have registered for unemployment insurance.

At the same time, Alim Yar-Mohammadi, an MP from Zahedan, said 74.5 percent of the people of Sistan and Baluchistanare below the nutritional poverty line and have been forced to break quarantine to provide their families with food. These people, he explained, are day laborers that must gather someplace each day to find work ,and none are covered by any government program for helping out-of-work Iranians. Yar-Mohammadi also said 300,000 people in his province do not have access to safe drinking water.

In certain southern provinces of Iran people are hiding COVID-19 symptoms because of  social stigma and must be begged to take a test, said Hedayatollah Khademi, an MP for the Khuzestani city of Izeh. He also criticized the government for its inconsistent enforcement of quarantine and social distancing protocols.

While health officials concede that several provinces are in a critical situation, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, has boasted that “During this time of coronavirus, the Islamic Republic and its infrastructure have emerged proudly from a difficult test.”

Fardin Mehrabian, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences, reported that, as of now, 600 members of the medical staff in the province have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 20 of them have died.

 

May 18

Reopening the Country has Led to a New Surge in Infections

“Iran sees a new surge in virus cases after reopening the country”, reports the New York Times. “Health experts had predicted this would happen when the government made the call to ease restrictions in late April.”

Quoting Health Ministry officials, Bloomberg reported 2,294 new coronavirus cases in Iran on May 18. “The rise took the overall tally to 122,492 confirmed cases, with more than 7,000 deaths”, said health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour in a televised statement.

Iran’s chemical weapons survivors are struggling  with the combined effects of COVID-19 and US sanctions, reported Vice News. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, more than 70,000 Iranians were injured by chemical weapons. More than 30 years after that war ended, many survivors of chemical attacks still struggle with long-term damage to their skin, eyes, and lungs: conditions that can manifest years after exposure and worsen with age, making these victims especially vulnerable to coronavirus.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki called on world leaders to hold Washington accountable for the "unnecessary suffering and pain" burdening Iran's population due to US sanctions. Speaking to the World Health Organization's annual assembly, which took place via videolink, Namaki called for global solidarity against the coronavirus pandemic but slammed US sanctions as "inhumane".

Dr Alireza Zali, director of Tehran’s Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that in the past 24 hours 150 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in ordinary wards in Tehran, and another 51 in ICUs. He warned that the situation in Iran’s capital is still fragile and the city is still a source of contamination.

Heydar Ali-Abedi, a member of the parliament’s health committee, complained that the health system suffers from a shortage of nurses and little is being done about it. Before the coronavirus crisis, he said, it was promised that 20,000 new nurses would be hired. But as of now, only 4,500 have been added to the medical staff.

Dr. Hossein Kermanpour, director-general of the medical council’s public relations team, reported that there have been 107 confirmed Covid-19 fatalities among members of Iran’s medical staff and 792 of them are known to have been infected with coronavirus.

The upward trend of infections in Bushehr province is worrisome and ending restrictions will only increase the mortality rate, warned Abdolkarim Gravand, Bushehr’s governor.

Government spokesman Ali Rabaei was more buoyant, stating that Iran now stands third, after China and Switzerland, in terms of the coronavirus patients treated, and that the country has now passed the phase of “managing” the epidemic and has entered the phase of “bringing it under control”.

Khuzestan province is still a “red” state and around one-fourth of new coronavirus cases in Iran per day are being logged here, warned Kianoush Jahanpour. He added that the situation in the provinces of Lorestan, North Khorasan, Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman and Kermanshah continues to be critical.

In the past month the number of infections in Kermanshah province has increased six-fold and this is a cause for great concern because, as of now, 90 percent of the people of the province have yet to come into contact with the virus, said Dr. Siavosh Vaziri, president of the Coronavirus Special Hospital in Kermanshah.

One reason for the increase in coronavirus cases in Hormozgan province is the increase in testing which have grown four-fold per day, said Dr. Fatemeh Noroozian, spokeswoman for Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences.

Based on Article 688 of the Islamic Penal Code and Article 21 of the Law to Prevent Contagious Diseases, violators of sanitary rules in the Khuzestan city of Dezful can be sentenced to up to one year in prison, said Mohammad Yar-Mombini, head of Dezful’s Justice Bureau. He added that many cases are being investigated and a number of violators have already been sent to prison.

 

May 21:

More Than 10,000 Healthcare Workers Have Contracted Coronavirus

Pushing people toward using public transport could lead to problems in Tehran, said Kianoush Jahanpour, the health ministry’s spokesman. “Our priority is compliance with social and physical distancing, not preventing air pollution,” he added.

Religious sites and shrines will reopen after Eid al-Fitr [marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan on May 24), President Rouhani said in a National Coronavirus Taskforce meeting. He said conditions for these reopenings would be announced at a later date.

More than 10,000 healthcare workers have been infected with coronavirus and a number of them have died, reported Deputy Health Minister Ghasem Jan-Babaei. He did not, however, specify the number of fatalities for each type of job, whether doctors, nurses, medics or other healthcare workers.

The shortage of equipment and facilities to fight coronavirus in Khuzestan is more alarming that the shortage of hospital beds, warned Ali Golmoradi, a member of parliament from Mahshahr in Khuzestan. He emphasized that the policies and the decisions taken by the National Coronavirus Taskforce must correspond with the specific conditions in each province and that one size would not fit all.

The situation in the cities of Ahvaz and Dezful is critical and, because of the epidemic, Eid al-Fitr prayers across the province have been canceled, announced Reza Nejati, spokesman for the Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce.

In the 24 hours leading up to May 21, 492 new coronavirus patients were confirmed in Khuzestan province and 14 Covid-19 patients died, increasing the total death toll in the province to 408, reported Ali Ehsanpour, spokesman for Khuzestan University of Medical Sciences.

According to a survey conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA) in cooperation with Tehran Municipality, 65 percent of the people who live in Tehran are unhappy with how the government had responded to the coronavirus crisis, 15 percent are moderately happy and only 20 percent are happy.

The proposal to reopen the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad for limited hours and with restrictions in place is very likely to be rejected by the coronavirus taskforce, said Mehdi Razavi Kia, the Imam Reza Shrine’s director of communications.

Three months after tourism facilities were shut down following the coronavirus outbreak, Mehran Hosseini, the deputy president of Mazandaran Tourism department, announced that they would reopen on May 21.

The five cities of Khorramabad, Borujerd, Dorud, Azna and Chegini in Lorestan are in a critical condition and restrictions will be reimposed across the province, announced Mahmoud Samini, Lorestan’s deputy governor. He announced that guests and tourists will not be allowed into the province, people must wear masks and gloves when they visit government offices and wedding and mourning ceremonies are banned.

The rate of coronavirus infections in Golestan province has fallen slightly by May 21, said Abdolreza Fazel, president of Golestan University of Medical Sciences. However, he predicted that the epidemic in Golestan would last for another four months.

Qom province is still on yellow, or medium, alert, and there will be no Friday Prayers and no marches or gatherings on the occasion of Quds Day on May 22, announced Bahram Sarmast, governor of Qom. Quds Day is an annual event held in the Islamic Republic to show support for the Palestinians and to condemn Israel and Zionism.

Confirming that a number of oil wells had been idled and Iran’s oil revenue has fallen, oil minister Bijan Zangeneh said the coronavirus crisis had now added a new weight to the sanctions and oil prices had fallen to one-third of what they previously were, regardless of how much oil Iran exports.

More than 90 percent of the population and many parts of Iran have not yet been affected by coronavirus, said health minister Saeed Namaki, who warned that non-compliance with social distancing and health protocols would lead to other coronavirus peaks in the country.

The number of coronavirus cases in the city of Jahrom in Fars province was on the rise, and a relatively considerable number of new cases had been identified in children, said the president of Jahrom University of Medical Sciences, who warned that infected children could transmit the virus widely because they show no symptoms.

The rise in the number of travelers arriving in Gilan province threatened to unleash a new surge of coronavirus cases in the province, warned Colonel Majid Farsad, deputy commander of Gilan police. As of May 21, only three cities in the province were “white,” or not in any state of alert, and the remaining cities were in a yellow, or moderate, state of alert. 

Every day the number of positive coronavirus tests results is rising in the province, said Mehdi Zangeneh, vice president of Sistan and Baluchistan’s Health Network. He said that necessary warnings had been issued against holding wedding and mourning ceremonies and medical teams were screening and testing people suspected of being infected.

New ways and methods of teaching must be employed to teach classes in the new school year, announced First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri at a meeting with the education ministry’s senior officials. He said this was because holding classes packed with students is no longer an option since Iran could face a serious surge of the epidemic in the fall.

 

May 26:

World Health Organization Warns of a “Second Wave” of Coronavirus

The number of coronavirus cases has risen in t Zanjan, Yazd and Lorestan provinces, and the provinces of Khuzestan and North Khorasan are still in a red state of alert.

The world is in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization’s head of emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan told an online briefing. Ryan said epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks may come back later this year in places where the first wave had subsided. He warned that there was also a chance that infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Ryan said.

Universities will start to reopen from June 6, with in-person classes, and priority will be given to Master’s and PhD courses, announced Iran’s Science Minister, Mansour Gholami. His statement contradicted an earlier statement by the president of Tehran University – and he added that student dormitories would also reopen on that date.

Reporting that 138 new patients have tested positive in one day in Hormozgan province, Hossein Farshidi, president of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, warned that infections in the province are rising fast.

At least 1,500 businesses in the city of Sabzevar, of Razavi Khorasan province, have closed permanently  because of coronavirus, leading to a recession, said Ali Kiani, chairman of the Sabzevar Chamber of Businesses.

According to an official report, a copy of which has been published by the website Iran International, the Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences believes that the government’s transition from strict social distancing to a so-called “smart distancing” policy is the reason behind the second wave of coronavirus cases in the province of Khuzestan.

Police have meanwhile arrested 30 people on the charge of “spreading rumors about coronavirus” on social networks and 190 others have been issued official warnings about such activities, said Khalil Vaezi, Bushehr province’s police commander.

In Gilan province, 10 cities are in a yellow state of alert, said Mahmoud Ghasem-Nejad, deputy governor of Gilan for political, security and social affairs. He suggested that people should avoid traveling to Gilan and that, if they have to travel there, they should take health guidelines seriously so as not to endanger themselves or others.

Businesses such as pools, cinemas and massage parlors are high-risk businesses and shall remain closed, said Colonel Naser Moradi, commander of Tehran’s Public Places Police. He added that group sports such as basketball, which take place in closed spaces, and contact sports such as wrestling, are not allowed either; but body-building is allowed, because it is done individually.

Meanwhile, fifteen percent of teachers in underprivileged areas still have no access to the Education Ministry’s SHAD online teaching network, reported Mehdi Sharafi, head of the Ministry’s Center for Technological Planning. He added that this group of teachers either have no access to the internet at all or lack necessary equipment such as laptops or smartphones.

“I have no idea what measures have been taken for re-openings to have started while coronavirus is still roaming around the country,” said Dr. Minoo Moharez, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce. People must not imagine that coronavirus is gone, she warned.

The number of Covid-19 patients in the cities of Abadan, Khorramshahr and Shadegan in Khuzestan province have been rising, and Abadan’s Taleghani Hospital, the center for treating coronavirus patients in the city, is reaching capacity.

If a city like Tehran is now in a “white” state of alert, it does not mean that it will last forever, and the situation in such cities is volatile, said Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce Scientific Committee. He added that all travelers and commuters are threatened by coronavirus every step of the way, from the gas station to the restaurant.

In his daily briefing, Kianoush Jahanpour, the Health Ministry spokesman, announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

 

- New coronavirus cases: 1,787

- New hospitalizations: 352

- Total cases since the outbreak: 139,511

- Total coronavirus tests conducted in Iran: 837,090

- Total recovered from coronavirus: 109,437

- New fatalities: 57

- Total death toll since the outbreak: 7,508

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