IranWire's Shahed Alavi gives an account of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, and how the government dealt with the unfolding crisis, starting with reports of the first cases through to the staggering escalation of illness across the country — a situation the government failed to control for a range of reasons.

Alavi has updated this chronicle on a regular basis. 

Read the full chronology.

 

April 1:

President Rouhani defended his government’s record of coping with coronavirus and said that the Chinese quarantine model would not work in Iran. He also claimed that the spread of the virus in all provinces had been in decline since the end of March, a claim that was belied even by the health ministry’s official daily reports on the epidemic.

Contrary to Rouhani’s claim, Dr. Alireza Zali, head of the Coronavirus Combat Taskforce in Tehran province, reported that the curve of coronavirus infections in Iran was accelerating upwards and “any negligence could result in a disaster.” According to him, one infected person could infect 486 others. He said that, in fighting an epidemic, being nice does not work and that people must ordered what to do.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that on April 8, provided that the second phase of social distancing was completed, the third phase, or “smart social distancing,” would get underway. He said that, in this phase, businesses that provide certain services would be reopened and scientific, cultural and religious centers would resume activities under specific guidelines.

Gholam Hossein Mehr-Alian, the director general of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, said that Iran planned to produce favipiravir, an antiviral drug that has not been certified by international health agencies to be effective against coronavirus, but which China had reported had helped Covid-19 patients in certain cases. He said that the drug would be added to the coronavirus treatment protocol if approved by the Headquarters to Fight Coronavirus’ scientific committee.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, president of Iran’s Medical Council, emphasized that the coronavirus epidemic in Iran had yet to reach its peak and that the number of infections was undoubtedly higher than the figures that the health ministry had announced.

“Almost two months before the first case of coronavirus was detected in Iran, the Pasteur Institute started planning for ways to detect this virus,” said Alireza Biglari, the director of Iran’s Pasteur Institute.

If by the detection of the first case Biglari meant February 19, then “two months earlier” would mean December 21 — whereas it was only on January 7, 2020 that the world was officially informed that the novel coronavirus had been identified. And it was on January 12 that China shared the genetic sequence of the virus, and the first test kit was developed on January 16. Commentators and experts believe that such careless pronouncements were bound to utterly undermine people’s trust in their leaders, who were supposed to be managing the crisis.

 

April 4:

Rouhani Calls for “Economic Normalcy” After April 8

On April 2, health ministry official Saeed Namaki sent a letter to President Rouhani, warning him that if businesses are reopened too soon the consequences for both the health system and the economy will be disastrous. Rouhani was apparently not convinced and Mahmoud Vaezi, his chief of staff, sent a response back to Namaki, telling him that all businesses and economic activities must resume after April 8 but that, of course, they would observe health guidelines.

Senior Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi announced that Iran is administering 7,000 coronavirus tests per day. “Public transportation and schools are among the most affected areas,” he said and pointed out that in some provinces the curve of fatalities is still on the increase. He emphasized that if restrictions on movement were lifted Iran is bound to face another Covid-19 peak.

From March 18 through April 4, four government and military agencies announced that they had succeeded in making coronavirus test kits domestically and will be able to produce these kits in millions. 

“When coronavirus was first detected in Iran, the contagion had been present for at least 20 days, meaning that a patient who lost his life [on February 19] must have been infected at least 20 days earlier,” said Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, president of Iran’s Medical Council.

Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, chairman of the parliament’s Human Rights Caucus, reported that 16 members of the parliament has submitted an urgent resolution to the parliament’s board of directors, demanding total quarantine and lockdown for a month.

Countries that rush to lift quarantine restrictions designed to contain the coronavirus pandemic risk an “even more severe and prolonged” economic downturn and a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, warned Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. “We are all aware of the profound social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” Tedros said during a briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. “Ultimately the best way for countries to end restrictions and ease their economic effects is to attack the virus.”

Mostafa Moein, Chairman of the Supreme Committee of Iran’s Medical Council, said the Iranian government’s record in fighting coronavirus has not been very impressive or defensible. He pointed out that Iran and Italy had similar responses to the coronavirus outbreak, but the Italians “accepted their weaknesses, whereas our government says that Iran’s experience is a role model and it offers to give advice to European countries.” Dr. Moein cited lack of transparency and the cover up of cases, repeated contradictory statements or statements without scientific basis made by political or health officials and the failure to quickly and decisively quarantine Qom.

Dr. Hasan Inanlou, Alborz Medical School Vice President, warned that if economic activities are resumed in the coming days, Iran might face a disaster, and even the death of one million Iranians.

President Rouhani announced that the social distancing project will be replaced with “smart social distancing” so that normal activities can resume. According to him, the rules and the standards for this approach were currently being discussed.

Mahmoud Tarfa, CEO of Tehran Bus Company, reported that 40 of its drivers had tested positive for coronavirus and two of them had died. Meanwhile, the number of people taking the bus riders rose again on the morning of April 4.

 

April 5:

President Rouhani Hopes to Reopen Government Offices Despite Warnings by Medical Experts

President Rouhani claimed that some provinces are in “situation white” — ie out of danger — but health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in his daily press briefing that “no province is in situation white, neither in Iran nor in the world. We have cases of infection even in villages, and the situation in Tehran is red.” Advising people to wear masks, Jahanpour warned that, contrary to what some people had said, the situation in the country was not normal and the coronavirus epidemic is so serious that if people did not take precautions, in the coming week Iran would again face an increase in the number of infections.

Jahanpour said that statistics and reports published by China were a “cruel joke” because they had led many across the world to believe that coronavirus was like influenza and that there would not be so many fatalities.

He repeated the same point in a tweet. “Scientific issues can, and must, never be mixed with politics,” he wrote. “Based on the epidemiological information and reports from Chinese researchers, all the world’s academic circles assumed that, at the very least, influenza type A was more dangerous than coronavirus. But, today, the findings show otherwise. We must trust our own findings more.” 

On the other hand, to downplay the danger of coronavirus, President Rouhani has repeatedly compared it to influenza.

“There are countries where coronavirus was identified within their borders less than two weeks after China but no information came out of them until they were about to be exposed,” wrote Jahanpour in another tweet. “By doing this, they damaged the health of their own people and of the world…” The countries Jahangir accused of cover-ups and lack of transparency, should, of course, include the Islamic Republic itself where, for a full month after the coronavirus outbreak, its officials denied it was happening and intentionally undermined people’s safety.

In response to Jahangiri, Chang Hua, the Chinese Ambassador to Iran, tweeted back: “China’s Ministry of Health has a press conference every day. I suggest you read their news carefully in order to draw conclusions.” Jahangiri replied that Iran’s Ministry of Health also holds a press conference every day and that they “are almost unique and the honorable ambassadors and directors of the media in all countries, especially in friendly ones, can benefit from them.”

The Chinese ambassador went silent for a few hours. Then Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, took China’s side. “The government and the people of China lead the way in suppressing coronavirus and generously aiding countries across the globe,” tweeted Mousavi. “Chinese bravery, dedication and professionalism in COVID19 containment deserves acknowledgment. Iran has always been thankful to China in these trying times.” Following this tweet, Chang Hua addressed Jahanpour directly, writing: “Dear sir, I hope you will respect the facts and the great efforts by the Chinese people.”

Then, apparently under pressure from officials higher up than him, Jahanpour backtracked from his earlier statements about China. "The support offered by China to the Iranian people in these trying times is unforgettable," he tweeted a day later.

In a letter to President Rouhani, Alireza Marandi, president of Iran’s Academy of Medical Sciences and a physician trusted by Ayatollah Khamenei, asked him to prevent specific sources from publishing figures about coronavirus. These figures, he said, should be announced only by the health ministry’s spokesman after the figures were confirmed by the ministry.

Dr. Payam Tabarsi, head of the Center for Epidemiological Studies of Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital, urged the government to renew the social distancing directives across the country for a further two weeks. Otherwise, he warned, "We shall witness a second peak in three weeks and, unfortunately, the fatalities will then rise.”

At the conclusion of a meeting of the National Coronavirus Taskforce, President Rouhani announced that religious sites would remain closed until April 18, but government offices would reopen on April 11, although only two-thirds of employees would return to work. He added that if anybody was infected with coronavirus, he or she must not go to work or appear in public and must put themselves in quarantine.

Once again, Rouhani compared coronavirus to influenza, saying “ill-wishers” and “counter-revolutionaries” are telling the people that they must choose between their health and economic activities but that this was “a false choice” and that it is possible to have both.

Despite warnings by medical experts about the dangers of flouting social distancing rules and the likelihood of a second peak, Farnoosh Nobakht, CEO of Tehran’s Metro Operations Company, reported that on Saturday, April 4, more than 290,000 passengers used the metro, three times the number that used it over the Iranian new year holidays.

Tahereh Changiz, president of Isfahan’s University of Medical Sciences, said that the cities of Kashan, Aran and Bidgol, cities where the university has branches, there are more than 6,500 confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus. And Jalal Barshan, head of the Coronavirus Task Force in Rasht, reported that the total number of coronavirus cases in the city is 14,584.

On the same day, the health ministry announced that the total number of coronavirus cases in Iran was 58,226. In other words, according to the ministry, there are only 37,142 further cases of coronavirus in Iran outside the cities Changiz and Barshan cited. Considering that the provinces of Qom, Tehran, Mazandaran and Gilan are the epicenters of the epidemic, this figure is difficult to believe.

Dr. Alireza Zali, commander of Tehran’s Anti-Coronavirus Operations, warned that the situation in Tehran was far from desirable and the hospitals have had to deal with 28 percent more suspected cases than it had before, a situation he said was exhausting to medical staff.

Ahmad Moradi, member of the parliament from Bandar Abbas stated that President Rouhani was either misinformed or negligent when he said that the situation in his province of Hormozgan was “white.”

Also on April 5, the International Quran News Agency published photographs of Christians, foreign seminary students and members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces distributing liquid disinfectant in Qom.

 

April 6:

Medical Experts Demand More Social Distancing

€2 Billion National Development Fund Cash to be Spent on Fighting Coronavirus

Ayatollah Khamenei finally complied with President Rouhani’s request to accept US$1.1 billion in aid from the National Development Fund to fight the epidemic and its devastating consequences. It took the Supreme Leader two weeks to make the decision — whereas it had taken him only one day to allow the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force to take $218 million out of the fund. The Leader has been accused of treating the fund as his own private bank.

In a flattering tweet reminiscent of courtiers of bygone times, health minister Saeed Namaki characterized Khamenei’s “gracious” decision as “glad tidings” and thanked God for it.

Contrary to President Rouhani’s repeated assertions, Hamid Soori of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce said there were no signs that the coronavirus epidemic was dissipating. He added that the virus had not reached its peak in the country. “Even though stringent rules for controlling the epidemic have been set, they have not been carried out adequately,” said Soori. “We failed to quickly respond to the ways that people behave and this epidemic spread from a small area to various parts of the country.”

Asghar Jahangir, head of Prisons Organization, claimed the organization checks on prisoners three times a day and the prisons are disinfected twice every day. Numerous reports from inside prisons and testimonies from dozens of recently-released prisoners suggest that the claim could only be a thoroughly belated April Fool’s Day joke.

Dr. Hossein Karim, president of the University of Medical Sciences in Alborz province, said if normal activity resumed now Iran would experience a more serious crisis ahead, adding that the public must not allow the situation to be presented as normal.

Despite government offices remaining open and many people having to travel to work outside their homes due to a lack of financial support, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said the war against coronavirus could only be won if people stayed at home. “Our motto is ‘stay home’ unless it is essential and limited, and we will take action on the side of safety any time that this rule is violated,” he said.

Deputy Health Minister, Alireza Raeesi reiterated the message. He emphasized that people should stay at home and said his ministry was adhering to that policy because coronavirus is still a serious danger.

In a cabinet meeting, President Rouhani said a credit line of one million tomans ($65 on the open market) would be made available to each of the 23 million households that receive cash subsidies, but this amount would be deducted from their subsidies over the next two years. In addition, a loan of up to two million tomans ($130) with an interest rate of four percent would be offered to four million low-income households, with an interest rate of 12 percent.

Dr. Mahmoud Alavi, director of Ahvaz University of Medical Science’s Center for Contagious Diseases, also said that if people left their homes the epidemic would spiral out of control. It could be contained in the next three months, he said, only if 90 percent of the population stayed at home.

Dr. Ali Birjandinejad, the president of Mashhad’s Medical Council, said that statistics showed that the epidemic had not yet peaked in Iran and social distancing must be intensified to stop the spread of the virus. He said a letter had been sent to President Rouhani requesting that social distancing be continued until late April, and even into May.

 

April 7:

Tehran Metro is Unable to Enforce Social Distancing

Health Ministry’s Claim it is Treating COVID-19 Cases For Free is Denied

Health Minister Saeed Namaki refuted the claim that Iran is now in the phase of controlling coronavirus, calling it an “illusion”. Then, once again, he genuflected to Ayatollah Khamenei, writing that it only because of Khamenei that patients were not wandering around hospital corridors - save, of course, for the grace of God.

Deputy Health Minister Ghasem Jan-Babaei reported that all ICU beds in allocated Iran for COVID-19 cases are now filled. Arash Najimi, a spokesman for Isfahan’s University of Medical Sciences, warned that the curve of infections in Isfahan is ascending and that hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients face a shortage of beds and ventilators.

Yousef Hojjatpour, Tehran Municipality’s official in charge of traffic and transportation, predicted that people's use of the metro in Tehran would increase in the next week and warned that the metro system is not set up to allow for social distancing.

Dr. Ali Zali, the head of Tehran’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, said the number of cases would increase in Tehran next week because the responsible officials have failed to take tough decisions - and the slower these decisions are made, the longer the epidemic will last. His concerns were echoed by Dr. Ali Akbar Haghdoost, chair of the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 Committee, who warned of an impending "jump" in the number of cases and added: “We can only hope that by enforcing controls this jump would not be too great.”

Abdolreza Azizi, chair of the parliament’s Social Affairs Committee, insisted that those told to stay at home should have their day-to-day expenses covered for a month to make up for the loss of livelihood. But at the same time, Saeed Mombini, chairman of the Iranian Trade Association, announced that 75 percent of businesses had been deemed “low-risk” and could resume their activities from April 11 in the provinces and from April 18 in Tehran.

Contrary to claims by the Health Ministry that COVID-19 patients are being treated for free, Dr. Mohammad Reza Ghadir, President of Qom’s University of Medical Sciences, said his institution had yet to receive any order from the ministry telling them not to charge coronavirus patients.

In a letter to President Rouhani, former Health Minister Kamran Bagheri Lankarani warned that relaxing social distancing protocols and reopening government offices and businesses could send hundreds of thousands of Iranians to hospital and lead to tens of thousands of fatalities.

Education Minister Mohsen Haji Mirzaei said that all schools will remain closed for the next two weeks. A decision about the rest of the academic year would be taken later, he added.

The Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw reported that 50 inmates on Ward 15 of Urmia Central Prison had been sent to hospital with suspected COVID-19.

An emergency bill put forward by a number of parliamentarians to shut down the country for a full month was removed from the agenda by a majority vote.

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaili reported that 600 people had died and 3,000 had been poisoned by drinking counterfeit alcohol under the misguided belief it could help ward off COVID-19.

 

April 8:

Rouhani: Iran Will Be Self-Sufficient in Producing Coronavirus Test Kits

Students May Refuse to Attend Classes If Universities Are Reopened “Prematurely” 

In a damning revelation in his daily briefing, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that up until February 19, only those who had returned from China or had had contact with others who had tested positive were being suspected of having coronavirus. This means that contrary to World Health Organization guidelines and every previous claim by the Health Ministry, the government had chosen all to ignore all signs of coronavirus infections in Iran from mid-Januarydespite that fact that, from January 27 at the latest, it had had access to coronavirus test kits.

In a cabinet meeting, President Rouhani claimed that Iran would be soon self-sufficient in producing test kits. Contrary to clear statements by the Health Minister and senior officials, Rouhani claimed that Iran was in the “containment phase” of the epidemic and ICU beds were available for people with COVID-19.

In its latest issue, the IRGC-sponsored weekly magazine Sobh-e Sadegh took aim at Jahanpour for having criticized China's management of information related to coronavirus, calling his statements “unwarranted”, “unprofessional”, “irresponsible” and “unfortunate”. The editorial also implicitly accused Jahanpour of security offenses, asking officials not only to appease China and its ambassador over the “unwarranted” criticisms but also to investigate Jahanpour’s true motive for the comments.

Hossein Erfani, head of the Health Ministry’s Contagious Diseases Department, said that “smart social distancing” - specific guidelines for the reopening of certain businesses and scientific, cultural and religious centers - would initially be in a "trial phase". If in this phase the virus cannot be controlled, he said, then stronger restrictions might be forthcoming.

The National Coronavirus Taskforce announced that except for supermarkets and health stores, all shopping centers, roofed bazaars, hairdressers, driving schools, restaurants, bathhouses, saunas, massage parlors, exhibition centers, entertainment centers, sports clubs, reception halls and coffeehouses must now close until further notice.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by Tehran Municipality and Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA) asked Tehran residents how long they could afford to stay afloat financially if the partial shutdown of the capital continued. Of the respondents, 34 percent said that they already could not afford to pay their expenses. Another 35 percent said they could get by for one or two months, nine percent said three or four months, and 22 percent said they could survive for five months or more.

Ahmad Ali Mohebati, the Governor of Sistan and Baluchistan province, announced: “Until yesterday, each day 10 people were added to the number of coronavirus cases in the province but today it doubled to 20.” In other words, he added, the situation is currently getting worse every day.

In a letter to Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi obtained by the website Iran International, Mohammad Hossein Bahraini, President of Mashhad’s Medical Sciences University, confirmed that due to "miscalculations" the number of coronavirus cases so far reported by his university was much lower than the real number.

Mohammad Reza Shams Ardekani, Director General of Health Ministry’s Office of Iranian Medicine, claimed Iran’s performance in fighting coronavirus has been much better than that of developed countries. “Some pretenders are very much behind Iran,” he said. He added that two remedies from “traditional Iranian medicine” are now being subject to clinical trials on coronavirus cases and, as of now, the results have been “encouraging.”

Mehdi Shafiei, spokesman for Kerman’s University of Medical Sciences, compared coronavirus to a “smoldering fire” and reported that patients tests in Kerman province show the average age of infection continues to fall: that is to say, that more more children and younger people had been testing positive.

In a public statement, more than 50 student unions across the country criticized contradictory decisions made by the Ministry of Science regarding the epidemic. They announced that if universities were reopened prematurely, their members would refuse to attend classes.

While countless workers have lost their jobs due to the epidemic, and last year’s inflation rate was 41.2 percent according to the Central Bank of Iran, the Supreme Labor Council proposed only a 21 percent increase in wages. But labor representatives who attended the pivotal meeting reportedly refused to accept the proposal.

The picture was not much better for government employees and retirees. On the same day, the cabinet agreed to increase their salaries by just 15 percent.

 

April 9:

Prisoners Are Shot Dead After Protests Over Coronavirus Safety Fears 

Around 36 prisoners in Iran are thought to have been killed and hundreds of others injured by security forces after lethal force was deployed to control protests over COVID-19 safety fears, Amnesty International reports. In several prisons, according to credible sources, live ammunition and tear gas were used to suppress unrest.

In recent weeks prisoners and their families had been raising the alarm that the Iranian authorities have failed to sufficiently protect the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, according to Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw, Mehr Ali Farhang, the supervisor of Urmia’s Central Prison, told inmates that “the Chief Justice [Ebrahim Raeesi] has ordered that anybody who participates in unrests can be killed.”

Earlier in the year, Chief Justice of Iran Embraham Raeesi had announced that due to the epidemic, prisoners with sentences of less than five years should be given leaves of absence. But many political prisoners in Urmia Central Prison had not yet been given furloughs and as a result rose in revolt.

Ghorbanali Valizadeh, Governor of Babol in Mazandaran province, said today that the number of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital exceeded the number that were released. He warned Babol residents that if they did not take social distancing and other sanitary precautions seriously, things would get worse because “this virus is lying in wait to ambush their lives.”

While President Rouhani continued to ignore warnings about social distancing and called to lift restrictions, Dr. Alireza Zali, Tehran Coronavirus Combat Taskforce’s Director of Operations, said in the next 5 to 14 days Iran would learn the consequences of unnecessary activity in public spaces. He added that in the past three days, the number of people with coronavirus symptoms who had gone to medical centers had increased. The National Coronavirus Taskforce announced business activities that were “not high-risk” could resume from April 11 in provinces and from April 18 in Tehran.

After Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour criticized China for its management of information related to coronavirus, a war of words erupted between him and Chang Hua, the Chinese Ambassador to Iran. Jahanpour was forced to retract his statements on April 5 but today outspoken MP Ali Motahari took Jahanpour’s side, tweeting that the “impudence” of the Chinese ambassador must not go unanswered. “Unfortunately,” he wrote, “our economic need of China has caused us to remain silent in the face of China’s oppression of Muslims in that country. Our fight against the United States was not supposed to make us dependent on China.”

A survey conducted by Tehran Municipality and Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA) shows that 48 percent people in Tehran do not trust official figures on coronavirus cases and fatalities. While 25 percent “somewhat” trust these figures, only 27 percent trust them fully.

 

April 10:

Public Transport a Key Driver For New Coronavirus Infections

Some 47 percent of urban households and 68 percent of rural households in Iran do not own a car and must use public transport for their day-to-day needs. But according to an announcement today by Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, public transport is also the biggest source of the spread of coronavirus in Iran, accounting for an estimated 26.5 percent of new infections, followed by businesses with 23 percent and schools with 11.5 percent.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the number of Covid-19 cases in the provinces of Tehran, Fars, West Azerbaijan, Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman and Razavi Khorasan had increased in the past 24 hours.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, numerous reports have surfaced that the IRGC has pressured doctors not to state coronavirus as the cause of death on death certificates, and have threatened victims' families with consequences if they reveal that their loved ones died from the virus. After it emerged that doctors have been instructed to “contact” the Guards before issuing death certificates, Health Ministry advisor Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted that the reason for “coordinating” with the Guards and the Basij was to enlist their help in “transporting the bodies and burying them.” This justification, of course, does not explain why the IRGC should be consulted before death certificates are issued.

In a statement, the Medical Council of the Islamic Rebublic warned that the so-called “smart social distancing” project aimed at facilitating the safe return to normal economic activities could have serious consequences. The current restrictions, it said, should have continued until at least May 1.

On April 6, President Rouhani had pronounced the situation in Sistan and Baluchistan “white”: under control. But today the Zahedan University of Medical Sciences noted that since March 20, the number of coronavirus cases in the province has risen three and a half times.

Ali Eshaghi, Deputy Director of the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, also announced a new research project into plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients in Alborz province. The Razi Institute was founded in 1924 with the initial purpose of countering epidemics in domestic animals. In more recent years, it has focused primarily on nanomedicine and biotechnology and produces over 2.5 billion doses of 55 different biological products per year, including human and veterinary vaccines and diagnostic antigens.

The Washington Post reported that it had obtained medical records from 56 hospitals in Tehran, including detailed information about thousands of coronavirus-related cases from late February, when Iran formally reported its first infection, through to mid-March. The hospitals — about a quarter of the approximately 200 medical facilities in the city admitting coronavirus-related cases — tested at least 5,500 patients in that period. Just under half tested positive, the records showed, while many sets of results appeared to still be pending.

“Nearly 70,000 Iranians have tested positive for the virus and more than 4,000 have died, including some of Iran’s most prominent officials, according to the government health ministry,” the Washington Post reported. “The human toll has gone largely unremarked upon in Western countries absorbed by the wave of deaths in places such as Italy, Spain and the United States.”

Shahaboddin Bimeghdar, an Iranian MP from Tabriz, proposed that the government withdraw funds from the National Development Fund, from large religious endowments and institutions and even from MPs' salaries finance a general lockdown of the country. The proposal seemed unlikely to receive an enthusiastic endorsement from the entities he had named.

According to the Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw, on Thursday, April 9, eight prisoners were transferred from quarantine ward to the communal Wards 1 and 2 of Urmia Central Prison - even though, according to the officer in charge, four had tested positive for coronavirus. This action has led to extreme anxiety among other inmates.

 

April 11:

Government Continues to Rewrite Its Account of Coronavirus in Iran

New Surge in Tehran Expected Within 10 Days

President Rouhani’s Chief of Staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, claimed today that at the outset of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran, it was medical experts who advised against a total quarantine of Qom  - and medical experts who had come up with the current containment model. He also claimed that most other affected countries are behind Iran in domestic management of the the epidemic.

Vaezi went on to say that Iran had been "the second country that identified coronavirus". In fact this was Thailand, which announced the first infected patient within its borders on January 13. So far Iranian officials have maintained the first caseof coronavirus was discovered in Iran on February 19; as of February 18, only a day earlier, at least 350 people in 25 countries had been officially diagnosed. If Vaezi was telling the truth, it would render this claim a tacit admission that Iranian officials knew of acoronavirus outbreak in Iran before January 13 but kept it under wraps for more than a month.

Reza Karami Mahmoudi, head of Tehran Municipality’s Crisis Management Organization, warned that compared to the national average, the rate of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 fatalities in Tehran is climbing and a new surge should be expected in the Iranian capital in next 10 days.

Dr. Alireza Zali, the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s director of operations in Tehran, said that in the past two weeks 95 percent of infections had been transmitted between family members.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said that, according to current forecasts, the rate of coronavirus infections would decline from late April but rate would not fall to zero. He warned that Tehran could become Iran's "Achilles heel" as millions travel between Tehran and nearby cities every day, potentially re-transmitting the virus to other parts of the province and beyond.

In a belated justification for the government's poor provision for low-income families during the epidemic, Abdolnaser Hemmati, the Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, said the government "sincerely wishes" it could provide people with grants. But due to sanctions, the drop in oil prices and the expense of fighting coronavirus, he said, the state cannot afford to support any households other than the 23 million that receive subsidies - and with loans at interest rates of less than 12 percent.

President Rouhani claimed that the new, controversial “smart social distancing” phase would be rolled out step-by-step and was based on the study of domestic Iranian lifestyles and on international health standards. At the same time, government spokesman Ali Rabiei cited statistics published by the Ministry of Labor that suggest if a total shutdown persists without intervention in the job market, more than four million people could be left unemployed.

It came on the same day as Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, warned that lifting coronavirus lockdown measures too early could spark a "deadly resurgence" in infections. Countries should be cautious about easing restrictions despite struggling with the economic impact, he said.

Saeed Nazari, a spokesman for Shiraz City Council, said his local authority had asked President Rouhani to continue home quarantine and travel restrictions. He added that that 16 passengers on one bus traveling from Isfahan to Shiraz had recently tested positive for coronavirus, and criticized the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development for failing to shut down inter-province bus terminals.

Elsewhere, Mostafa Salimi, a political prisoner who had been sentenced to death in 2003, was hanged in the city of Saqez in Iranian Kurdistan. On March 27, Salimi had escaped along with dozens of other inmates during a protest by inmates against prison conditions in Saqez amid the coronavirus outbreak. He fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region but Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government extradited him to Iran.

 

April 12:

10,000 New Graves in Tehran are Readied for Coronavirus Victims

Coronavirus Tests Return False Negatives

Today the Tehran Municipality Director of Urban Services, Mojtaba Yazdani, reported that 10,000 graves for coronavirus victims have been prepared at the Tehran Behesht Zahra Cemetery. As of now, Iranian officials maintain that only 4,474 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Iran.

The head of Tehran's Coronavirus Taskforce, Dr. Alireza Zali, said today that another 450 new cases of coronavirus had been recorded in Tehran hospitals in the past 24 hours. But Zali went on to reveal that many tests had returned many false negatives for infection and, as a result, there could be no guarantees that the published figures were correct.

The National Coronavirus Taskforce's planning deputy Ali Maher also lambasted Iran's approach to the outbreak to date. Asserting that there was "no middle road" in a pandemic scenario, he said the stark choice was between a high fatality rate by pursuing "herd immunity" - with all the devastating socio-economic consequences that could entail - or keeping at least 80 per cent of people in their homes for 40 days via strict quarantine and social distancing measures. Iran's policy, he said, had so far been unclear, leading to a failure to contain an outbreak that at this rate, he said, could well continue for years.

President Rouhani ignored repeated warnings about the potential impact of unfettered movement. At a meeting of the Taskforce he announced that, from today, travel between cities in the same province would be permitted and travel between provinces would be allowed from April 20. It came with the caveat that public transportation vehicles must be disinfected before and after use, drivers must wear masks and gloves and the number of passengers cannot exceed the number of seats. Rouhani also re-iterated the claim that Iran has managed the coronavirus crisis better than European countries.

Mohammad Reza Ghadir, President of Qom’s University of Medical Sciences, said that the coronavirus epidemic in Qom has not yet been controlled and cannot be controlled without social distancing. All coronavirus patients, be they Iranian citizens or foreigners, will be treated free of charge in the hospitals run by his university. Vice President Siamak Mohebi added that as of April 12, 11,465 patients thought to be infected with coronavirus had been assessed at medical centers in Qom.

Meanwhile, the conservative MP Hossein-Ali Haji-Deligani issued a parliamentary warning to the Minister of Economy, Farhad Dejpasand. Because people were still going to banks in person, he said, and because of the failure to provide adequate electronic services, 3,000 bank employees had so far been infected with coronavirus and 42 of them had died.

A group of metalworkers also wrote to President Rouhani, reminding him that lower-income workers' lives and livelihoods were also at risk during the crisis. The price of alcohol, they said, has risen to one and a half times its usual value while the price of masks has risen sixfold. The group asked Rouhani to help lower-income workers by granting them unemployment insurance for three months, back-paying their wages, providing free water, electricity and gas until the end of coronavirus crisis and distributing free sanitary necessities including masks, gloves, alcohol and disinfectants.

“Thanks to you and to previous governments we have become poorer by the day and our purchasing power has diminished,” the letter said. “Drivers, construction workers, street vendors, the unemployed and those in marginal jobs are not covered by unemployment insurance. You cannot promote staying at home but forget about the poor.”

Vahid Ghobadi Dana, head of the Iranian Welfare Organization, said that of the 2,531 care settings for the elderly, the disabled and drug addicts in Iran, as of now 45 had been contaminated by coronavirus. He said that based on current estimates the elderly and disabled were 5.3 times more likely to be infected by coronavirus and 4.8 times more likely to die in the event they become infected.

Reviewing positions taken by various Iranian health and government officials toward fighting the coronavirus epidemic makes one thing clear: there is no coordination or unified policy. Every individual is talking for himself, giving the impression that the country is run by a feudal system of government.

In such a situation, there is no guarantee that when the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce or President Rouhani announce a policy that it will actually be implemented. For instance, while Rouhani continues to insist that things are returning to normal, health ministry officials repeatedly warn that less social distancing means more infections and fatalities.

 

April 13:

Too Many Decision-Makers Undermine Efforts

Health ministry official Saeed Namaki expressed hope that the coronavirus crisis would subside in June, but added that there were many questions he could not answer and that the country must be ready for many more difficult days. Come autumn, he warned, people might have to deal with seasonal influenza and coronavirus at the same time.

Dr. Tahereh Changiz, president of Isfahan’s University of Medical Sciences, warned that if disregard for social distancingin Isfahan continued as it had before, the number of coronavirus infections would soar again.

While many countries have allocated more than 10 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to relief from the coronavirus epidemic, the financial relief package in Iran amounts to one billion dollars or only 3.1 percent of its GDP, said Jamal Razeghi, chairman of Fars province’s Chamber of Commerce.

In the last 30 days more than 100 inmates at Urmia’s Central Prison have contracted coronavirus and at least seven prisoners have lost their lives to the virus, the Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw reported.

Except in six provinces where the curve of coronavirus infections has been going up, the number of infections and fatalities in most provinces has declined, the Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said, but he reiterated that people must continue to stay at home. Contrary to his advice, however, government offices and most businesses had returned to work in response to the policies approved by President Rouhani’s administration.

Dr. Abdolreza Azizi, the chair of the parliament’s Social Affairs Committee, said the coronavirus crisis cannot be solved with a  policy of repeatedly tightening and then loosening restrictions. Iran must follow China’s example by militarily enforcing quarantine to break the chain of infections, he added. 

The fact that the country has multiple centers responsible for decision-making has undermined the effectiveness of measures to control the coronavirus crisis. Iran’s Medical Council issued a statement that said the gap between the health ministry’s statistical methods and the facts on the ground have damaged public trust in official statistics. The statement also warned that the so-called “smart social distancing” project might spread the coronavirus epidemic because such a model only works when the number of infections is so low that the patients and their families can be kept under surveillance.

Despite the implementation of “smart social distancing,” vehicles with license plates from outside the province would not be allowed to enter Gilan province, announced Azizollah Maleki, Gilan’s police commander. He did not make it clear whether the ban would be lifted on April 20, as President Rouhani had ordered it to be, or whether the directive would  be ignored.

Despite the coronavirus epidemic, people were required to collect medications from pharmacies in person because the technological infrastructure for the electronic filling of prescription did not exists, said Dr. Ali Fatemi, the vice president of the Iranian Association of Pharmacists.

 

April 14:

Coronavirus Cases 10 times More than Official Figures

Based on a model developed by the health ministry’s Epidemiology Workgroup, it is estimated that if no action is taken to isolate people in Iran, 60 million will contract the virus, the epidemic will last for a further 400 days and will reach its peak in October 2020. Based on the same model, if 20 percent of the population is isolated, 1.16 million will contract the illness and 13,450 will die. With 40 percent of the population isolated, the estimate is that 811,000 will be infected and approximately 6,000 will die.

The true numbers of fatalities from coronavirus in Iran are around twice the number given by the health ministry, and the number of infections is 10 times higher than these statistics, according to a report published by the Parliament Research Center. According to this estimate, the number of coronavirus cases in Iran is approximately 700,000 and more than 8,000 have died from the disease.

Mohammad Hossein Esmaili, Commander of Isfahan’s General Security Police, announced that 23 people who he claimed had been “rumor-mongering” about the coronavirus epidemic had been arrested on the charge of “disturbing the public mind.” The police have arrested dozens of people on the same charge since the coronavirus epidemic started in Iran, including nurses who had reported the number of fatalities in the hospitals where they work.

The suspension of all sports events and competitions will continue until May 20, the National Coronavirus Combat Workforce announced. Private and state-owned sports clubs will remain closed until at least May, pending further notice.

Tehran’s parks were reopened on April 1 following the end of the Iranian new year holidays, but have since been closed to the public again by order of the National Coronavirus Combat Workforce. It is not clear why the parks were reopened in the first place, since social distancing rules were and are still in place.

According to Iran’s Supreme Audit Court report to the parliament, out of the foreign currency that the government sold at the official exchange rate during the Iranian calendar year of 1397 (March 21, 2018-March 21, 2019) to finance imports, more than $4.82 billion has gone missing, meaning that these billions of dollars were not used to import any goods into Iran. This sum almost equals the $5 billion loan that Iran has requested from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it cope with the coronavirus epidemic.

In 2019, a deputy health minister, Alireza Raeesi, had stated that low-priced government foreign currency had been used to buy tobacco products instead of medicine and medical equipment.

President Rouhani announced that current beneficiaries of cash subsidies would each receive a no-interest loan of one million tomans ($234 at the official price) and that the government will pay the interest, but starting from June 21 payments for this loan will be deducted from these people’s subsidies.

Over the last 24 hours, close to 500 patients with coronavirus have been hospitalized in Tehran, according to Dr. Alireza Zali, director of operations for Tehran’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. Of this number, 100 are in intensive care unit wards.

Zahra Bahramnejad, member of the board of directors of Tehran City Council, said that since the proposal for the mandatory wearing of masks in the metro has been rejected, there is no guarantee that social distancing would be observed in the metro. Since the air in the metro circulates in a closed environment, she said, coronavirus would spread more easily, she said. She also asked the council to shut down Tehran’s metro.

In Fars province, the shortage of disinfectants and masks in Fars province continues, and many people in the province appear in public places without necessary protective gear, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. As a result, there is a danger that coronavirus will spread fast in the province.

 

April 16:

Revolutionary Guards’ “Coronavirus Detector” Invites Jokes and Disbelief 

On April 15, General Hossein Salami, Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guards, unveiled what he said was a coronavirus test device named “Mustaan-110,” hailing it as an "amazing invention" by "Basiji scientists” and a remarkable achievement for the Guards. ”Using a magnetic field and a polarized virus inside the device, any point within a radius of 100 meters that is infected will be detected by the antenna of this device, which is placed in front of that point and the infected point is identified within five seconds,” he claimed.

This fantastic claim quickly turned into a target for jokes, which Iranians shared widely on social media. The words translated as "polarized" can also mean "bipolar" in Persian, so one person on Twitter sarcastically asked whether the virus is very depressed sometimes and manic at other times. On a more serious note, the Physics Society of Iran announced that even if it could be assumed that the device actually works, it would mean the boundaries of science have dramatically shifted, adding that it is currently impossible to detect a particle of a 100 nanometers in size from a long distance, so the Guards’ claim falls under the category of science fiction.

It has been predicted that the coronavirus epidemic will soar again in Iran with the arrival of autumn, warned Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi. He predicted that Iran would also witness a surge in influenza at the same time, at a level that has not been seen since a severe epidemic in the country in 2009. “At this moment we are not going to allow roofed bazaars and malls to reopen and the reopening of businesses without any plans would lead to disaster.”

Harirchi also made statements that indicated that he knew or believed that coronavirus cases began to emerge in Iran well before it was officially announced. “The [first] infected person whose test returned positive had been infected a long time before and since he had not come [back] from China, he must have been infected by somebody else. Therefore, the disease was in Iran before the test was done.”

However, Iranian officials continue to contradict each other and themselves about coronavirus. One blatant example of this is the question of when coronavirus test kits first arrived in Iran.

Three officials from the health ministry provide three very different answers. Siamak Samiee, Director General of the ministry’s Health Lab, says that the test kits existed in Iran from February 9 while earlier, Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeesi had said that there were no test kits anywhere in the world before February 11. He contradicted the health ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who had said that Iran had the kits since January 27. At least two of them and, perhaps all three, are either uninformed or are lying, for whatever reason.

An epidemiologic study carried out by the Health Ministry reveals that, by April 15, a new wave of the epidemic had begun in the provinces of Tehran, East Azerbaijan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, Khuzestan, Gilan and Mazandaran, and that the epidemic had recently reached its peak in Isfahan, Ilam, South Khorasan, Razavi Khorasan, and Hamadan.

On April 14, a report by the Parliament Research Center had estimated that the fatalities from coronavirus in Iran were around twice as many as had been cited in health ministry statistics, and infections were 10 times more. But on April 16, Mohammad Ghasemi, supervisor of the Parliament Research Center, retreated from the estimates published in the report and, following the now-familiar pattern of Iranian officials’ behavior, accused the foreign press of disseminating incorrect information about the epidemic in Iran.

According to a report from Gharchak women’s prison near Tehran, since the outbreak of coronavirus, sick inmates have been kept in the same cells as healthy prisoners. The inmates must pay up to 100,000 tomans ($23) for liquid soap, they have no access to protective gear such as masks and gloves, and there is no practice of quarantine whatsoever. Some inmates suffering from fever have appealed to prison staff but have been ignored. Unsurprisingly, prison officials have categorically denied such reports.

Clinics, surgeries and non-emergency services at Iran’s hospitals have resumed but dentistry services and plastic surgeries are still suspended, said Ghasem Jan-Babaei, a deputy health minister.

According to Dr. Mohammad Bahraini, President of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, close to 100 members of the medical staff in hospitals run by the university have contracted coronavirus.

President Rouhani spoke of the difficulties Iranians will continue to face throughout the year, saying it would be especially difficult because they were having to contend with two viruses, coronavirus and the sanctions virus.

Mehdi Sadati, governor of Shemiranat, a county in greater Tehran, said that even though Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital in his county is one of the biggest coronavirus treatment centers in the country, its resources are limited and if the epidemic gets worse it would have a difficult time treating patients.

It is unlikely that higher education institution would be able to reopen by June 20 and for the time being, universities would have to continue in the way they have been for the last several weeks, an official for the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology said. He warned that reopening student dormitories while the epidemic is still raging would lead to disaster.

Religious endowments and charity foundations must “voluntarily and sincerely” put their assets in the service of the people because these assets belong to the nation, said Gholamreza Heydari, member of the parliament’s Budget Committee. The Supreme Leader, he said, must order them to do so.

 

April 17:

Disclosing Genetic Information of Iranians to Foreigners is a National Security Offence, Says General

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour claimed that currently one of every 11 deaths in Iran is caused by coronavirus, while until three weeks previously, this number was one in six. He said that, at the height of the epidemic, one Iranian died every 10 minutes because of coronavirus.

Tehran Traffic Police reported that, by the end of the week, traffic in Tehran streets had increased by 10 percent compared to the previous three weeks.

Ahmad Marvi, the Guardian of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, reported that the guidelines for reopening the shrinethrough “observing health criteria” had been prepared. The holy Shia shrines in Qom and Mashhad were closed a few weeks previously to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The reopening of some businesses and the implementation of the “smart distancing” project does not mean that the situation was returning to normal, warned Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi. He said that the impact of reopening businesses on the number of coronavirus infections would be evident in five days; the impact on the number of hospitalizations would be felt in 15 days, and the impact on the number of fatalities would be clear within a month. He warned that, given that there are approximately 20 million students in Iran, schools and universities are one of the most dangerous places for the spread of coronavirus. Harirchi reiterated that coronavirus is still “lying in ambush” for Iranians.

Once again the health minister Saeed Namaki revised the history of coronavirus outbreak in Iran. He claimed that in mid-January, after China announced the spread of coronavirus, he requested an emergency meeting and asked First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to suspend direct flights between Iran and China. Prior to this he had said that he had first asked for the suspension of flights on January 31.

If the number of passengers using the Tehran metro, which is currently 350,000, exceeds 400,000, social distancing in the metro would not be possible, warned Yousef Hojjatpour, Tehran Municipality’s official in charge of traffic and transportation. Photographs of metro traffic in recent days show that social distancing is not even observed at the moment.

Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, the president of Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences, reported that 95 members of medical teams in Khuzestan province, including 21 doctors, had been infected with coronavirus and that the situation in a number of cities in Khuzestan is “red.” He also warned that the number of cases in the marginal neighborhoods of Ahvaz had increased and it is feared that it will continue to climb.

Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Coordinating Deputy of the Armed Forces, claimed that the army had predicted the coronavirus outbreak on January 19, had planned for it and had ordered its forces to be on alert. He said that the army had learned about the necessity of preparedness by reviewing reports published by the World Health Organization. If this claim is true, then questions arise as why other Islamic Republic officials failed to act until a month later.

The number of hospitalizations in Qom’s treatment centers, especially in Kamkar Hospital, has again increased and the sudden lifting of restrictions could lead to a new wave of coronavirus infections, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, the president of Qom University of Medical Sciences, warned.

The holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, begins on April 24. “The one who knows fasting has no harm for him/her, even if doctors say it is harmful, must fast,” said Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Hossein Wahid Khorasani. “And the one who is certain or assumes significant harm or fears based on a logical reason, even if doctors say there is no harm, must not fast.”

General Gholamreza Jalali, commander of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization, joined other officials who have been rewriting the history of coronavirus in Iran. He claimed that, starting in January, his organization held meetings to discuss how to cope with coronavirus and the first coordination meeting with other agencies was held on February 24, after which all medical centers were put on alert and everything was in place to fight coronavirus. On February 4, however, Jalali had said that there was no need for “red” alerts and the likelihood of a coronavirus epidemic in Iran was negligible. “There is no proof of a positive case in Iran,” he had said.

Transferring genetic information about Iranians to other countries is an offence against national security, the general added, because it could be used to wage biological warfare against Iran.

President Rouhani ordered the health minister to work with the Ministry of the Interior to decide what provinces and cities would be able to hold religious ceremonies during the holy month of Ramadan and inform the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce of the results.

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaili confirmed that a number of the Supreme Judiciary Council members, including Hasan Darvishian, the head of National Inspection Office, Abas Masjedi, the president of Iran’s Medical Council and Ali Abdollahi, head of the judiciary’s Office of Security and Intelligence, had been infected with coronavirus but have recovered.

Dr. Alireza Zali, Tehran province’s commander of Operations against Coronavirus, reported that certain businesses including those operating in Tehran bazaar and in covered malls would not reopen on April 20 and would remain closed until further notice.

 

April 18:

Iran to Receive Loans from the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank to Fight the Epidemic

While Iran is struggling desperately to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Rasoul Falahati, Supreme Leader’s representative to Gilan province, an epicenter of the epidemic, warned that the “enemy” intended to exploit the situation and sow discord among the faithful during the holy month of Ramadan (starting April 23) by encouraging transgressions in public. During Ramadan, Muslims are not to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk and Falahati demanded that the police take strong action against anybody who “breaks fast” in public and commits other religious transgressions.

Some of the masks made in Qom province have been sold online but Qom province, and yet the province still has a shortage of masks, reported Zabihollah Abdollahi, the Deputy Governor of Development and Planning for Qom.

Hasan Lotfi, a member of parliament’s Social Committee, proposed that some government agency budgets for non-essential services should be slashed and the money should be redistributed to people who are unable to pay their current expenses. 

Tehran is still dealing with an epidemic and it is necessary to continue observing social distancing, said Dr. Alireza Zali, head of Tehran’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. “But it would not work in the metro because we have only two ways to ensure social distancing in the metro: either we have to upgrade the metro’s infrastructure and this is impossible in the short run, or all metro’s passenger must wear masks, which is next to impossible because of the shortages.”

To benefit from the credit line of one million tomans (a little over $67 in the open market exchange rate) Rouhani’s government has offered to households that receive subsidies, the SIM card of the head of the household’s mobile phone must be in his or her name. As a result, there were long lines at shops and businesses where such registration and SIM card purchases take place, leading health experts to warn that such behavior would contribute to the spread of coronavirus.

If the number of infections in Khuzestan province continues to climb, hospitals will no longer be able to cope, warned Ali Khodadadi, president of Khuzestan’s Red Crescent Society.

General Taimur Hosseini, commander of the National Traffic Police, warned that when restrictions are lifted, people will begin to travel again and it would be inconceivable to expect them to avoid traveling. That is why, he added, he had expected the restrictions to remain in place as long as the epidemic does.

Iran’s borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan are closed and the residents of these countries are not allowed into Iran in order to stop the spread of the virus, said Hossein Ghasemi, Secretary of the Social Committee of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. This is worth noting, since it is believed that people coming from Iran initially spread the virus to the two countries in the first place. 

In coordination with the World Health Organization, Iran will receive a $50 million loan from the World Bank and a €130 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank to import equipment and to fight coronavirus.

It it expected that there will be a sharp increase in cases of depression and psychological disorders among Iranians, Mohammad Hatami, president of the NGO Psychology and Counseling Organization of Iran, predicted. This will be added to the large numbers of people who were suffering from mental health problems before the epidemic. 

Fars province is under enormous pressure due to shortages of medical equipment, especially in the cities of Shiraz, Neyriz and Jahrom, said Anayatollah Rahimi, governor of the province.

Military conscripts with degrees from medical and paramedical schools will be dispatched directly to army medical centers in May without military training, announced General Taqi Mehri, head of Iran’s Public Conscription Agency. Other conscripts, he said, will be sent to military barracks and bases after being screened for coronavirus.

 

April 19:

Shortage of More than 80,000 Nurses

The government has signed four contracts with four domestic companies to develop an anti-coronavirus vaccine and will sign two more contracts during the week of April 19, said Dr. Sorena Sattari, President Rouhani’s vice president for science and technology. He predicted that, this year five made-in-Iran vaccines will come on to the market. He reported that Iran now manufactures 40 ventilators a day and that, before the coronavirus crisis, these manufacturing companies exported the ventilators to Europe. He boasted that in the field of biotechnology, Iran is “unique” in the region.

Meanwhile, Iran’s health system has a shortage of more than 80,000 nurses, according to Heydar Ali Abedi, a member of parliament and the parliament’s observer on the Supreme Nursing Council. Despite this shortage, it has been reported that in recent weeks some private hospitals have expelled a number of their nurses and paramedics.

Passengers who arrive in Isfahan on international flights will be quarantined for 12 hours and will be tested for coronavirus, said Hojatollah Gholami, spokesman for Isfahan’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. If an individual tests positive, they will be sent to a medical center and be released only when they have recovered and no longer thought to be a danger to others.

 Dr. Alireza Zali, head of Tehran’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, warned that the rate of coronavirus contagion in public transportation could be very high and, with the reopening of shopping centers on April 20 and the resulting increase in traffic and transportation, it would become more essential to observe safety precautions to prevent the virus from spreading. He also reported that the number of hospitalizations in ordinary wards and ICUs in Tehran was increasing slightly.

According to a survey conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA), the incomes of more than half of Iranians have fallen since the coronavirus crisis started. The businesses run by or employing close to 42 percent of the people have closed down and 13.5 percent of people have lost their jobs.

Pointing out that so far a vaccine or effective treatment for coronavirus or Covid-19 had not been developed anywhere in the world, Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Bureau warned that all so-called cures on the internet are immoral scams and do not work.

Abbas Mousavi, a representative of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group and part of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Force, said that, after the outbreak of coronavirus in Qom, members of his group disinfected several streets in the city and distributed food among the people.

With the surge in business activities and the increase in metro passengers to 400,00 per day, social distancing on public transportation is meaningless and impossible, said Mohsen Hashemi, president of Tehran City Council. He also said that as a result of the fall of revenue from value-added tax due to diminished business activities, inflation, increase in expenses and other factors, all municipalities in Iran face financial difficulties and asked for the government’s help.

No religious ceremonies to mark the holy month of Ramadan would be allowed at religious sites and mosques until early May, President Rouhani announced at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce [Persian video].

Rouhani added leave of absence for prisoners who do not pose a risk to society would continue until May 20. He ignored the fact that, in recent days, a number of political prisoners and labor activists, including Esmail Abdi, a teachers rights activist, and Parvin Mohammadi, a labor rights activist, who had been on leave have now been returned to prison.

There can be no doubt that when the coronavirus crisis is over, there will be an unprecedented surge in tourism and this would compensate for the losses suffered as a result of the epidemic, said Ali Asghar Mounesan, the head of Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization.

Official figures for coronavirus infections and deaths have not been broken down by province , said Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, a member of Tehran City Council, a practice that he said amounted to playing with people’s lives. He wanted the authorities to make the infection numbers in Tehran clear so that people can decide for themselves whether they want to return to work or not. Otherwise, he said, the authorities could be accused of involuntary manslaughter. He added that it was only after a warning by Tehran City Council that the spokesman for the health ministry revealed that one-third of all coronavirus fatalities in Iran have taken place in Tehran.

 

April 20:

More than 80 Percent of Iranians Agree That Schools Must Remain Closed Until the Coronavirus Crisis is Over

In a letter to President Rouhani, a group of doctors, health professionals and members of the business community criticized the National Coronavirus Task Force for “lack of transparency and courage in disseminating information,” “emotional and unprofessional decisions” and “lack of trust in the country’s scientific community.” The letter also emphasized that it is “wrong” to compare Iran to the United States regarding the reopening of businesses and that the American model cannot be applied to Iran.

Abbas Mousavi, the president of the Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, reported that in the last 24 hours, 95 new cases of suspected coronavirus patients had been hospitalized in the province and asked people not to leave their homes unless necessary and to avoid gatherings.

According to a survey conducted by the Research Center for Culture, Art and Communication, run by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, more than 80 percent of Iranians agree that schools and universities must remain closed until the coronavirus crisis has passed and that 57 percent are against plans to return to normal business activities by April 20.

Over the last 10 days, the number of patients with coronavirus symptoms going to hospitals has declined in most provinces, but there is no guarantee that this downward trend will continue, said Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister. He pointed out that, even at that point, the curve of infections in six provinces was ascending.

Coronavirus is unpredictable and we cannot assume that it will be controlled or end on a certain date, Harirchi warned. Iran or any other country cannot claim that it has controlled the spread of coronavirus, he added.

Lifting the ban on inter-province traffic while schools are closed is dangerous and could lead to disaster because it could increase the rate of travel between cities and lead to a new coronavirus peak, warned Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, the health minister’s representative to Gilan province.

 

April 21

Training Dogs to Smell Coronavirus?

One hundred and seven doctors, nurses and medical personnel in Kermanshah have been infected with coronavirus, reported Ebrahim Shakiba, the spokesman for the province’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce.

In a letter to President Rouhani, Alireza Marandi, Ayatollah Rouhani’s trusted doctor and advisor, asked him to order the reopening of mosques and shrines — with social distancing and other safety precautions in place — as soon as possible.

Shahrbanoo Amani, a member of Tehran City Council, criticized the policy of “smart social distancing,” which reduces the distance between people and warned that this policy would lead to another peak in the coronavirus epidemic.

Tehran City Council employees who challenged Iran’s official coronavirus statistics were the same people who claimed that the 2009 presidential election was fixed, announced Kianoush Jahanpour, the spokesman for the health ministry. He said that none of the critics at the council are “death specialists” and able to diagnose the cause of death. Therefore, they were not well placed to question official figures.

Only 20 percent of people infected with coronavirus in Iran go to treatment centers, and for this reason, the actual number of cases is greater than what is stated by official statistics, according to Morteza Khatami, the deputy chairman of the parliament’s Health Committee.

When the number of people who want to ride public transportation is greater than its capacity, there is no possibility for social distancing to take place if the crowd is too big, said Mohammad Alikhani, head of Tehran City Council’s Transportation Committee.

Most applications for reopening businesses have come from small business such as dry cleaners, grocery stores and repair shops, said Mohsen Farhadi, an official with the health ministry’s Center for Sanitation of the Environment and Workplace. He emphasized that treatment centers like doctor and dentist offices also need to apply to reopen.

A project to train dogs to smell and detect coronavirus is under consideration,  with the support of the army, said Hamid Reza Shiri, spokesman for the Coronavirus Detection Project. In the past, he said, dogs have been helpful in identifying malaria and other diseases.


April 22:

Rouhani: Those Doubting Official Figures are “Mouthpieces” of Foreigners

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour has claimed that the ministry has been “honest” and “frank” in its statistics – but it is up to the people to judge its performance. He also said the reopening of universities after the holy month Ramadan on May 24 would be subject to approval by the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce.

At a meeting of his cabinet, President Rouhani said those who question official figures and information about coronavirus are a small group who are the “mouthpieces” of foreigners. He claimed Iran is now self-sufficient in making test kits and will soon be able to export them as well. But on the very same day, a customs official announced that “six tons” of test kits worth close to half a million euros, and purchased from France, had entered the country.

Patients who are visiting the hospitals these days are in worse conditions than before, said Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. In such a situation, he added, not only do medical personnel come under increased pressure but it takes longer for patients to recover. Zali also reported that the number of infections in Tehran has risen by six percent, warning that with the increase of unnecessary traffic and travel we must expect an increase in infections.

The number of coronavirus patients in grave conditions that need special care and must be immediately transferred from the emergency room to ICU has also increased, said Peyman Saberian, head of Tehran’s Emergency Services.

A group of MPs introduced an urgent bill that would punish people with fines, imprisonment, blood money and even qisas(retribution) if they hide symptoms of contagious diseases including coronavirus, ignore health guidelines or through inaction transmit the disease to others.

Reza Berenjkar, an official of Qom’s Koran Research Center, postulated that the coronavirus epidemic, like other calamities such as earthquakes and floods, would benefit religion by encouraging society to renew its faith in God.

 

April 23:

Betting Sites are Find Lucrative Business in Wagers on Number of Coronavirus Victims

The curve of the coronavirus epidemic is flattening and no Iranian province is in “situation red”, or so Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has claimed. Three days later, the same Harirchi confirmed that 184 cities are in situation red. Apparently, none of these cities belong to a province.

Harirchi also reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Khuzestan had increased due to the relaxation of social distancing. This was echoed by Jamal Alemi Neysi, governor of the provincial capital of Ahvaz, who said that the lifting of restrictions, reopening of low-risk businesses, increased presence of people in public spaces and decline in social distancing has led to a surge in transmission of coronavirus in the city. But at the same time, he said, another reason for the jump in the number of coronavirus cases was that testing at the hospitals has increased.

The Supreme National Security Council has suspended the supervisory authority of parliament, the judiciary, the Supreme Audit Court and General Inspection Office over the expenses of the National Coronavirus Taskforce.

The US's offer of help to Iran is “empty and unreal,” tweeted Health Minister Saeed Namaki. Instead, he wrote, Iran stands ready to help Americans who are suffering due to the incompetence of their government.

Some betting websites are finding ucrative business in accepting wagers on the number of coronavirus victims or when the crisis will end, reported the newspaper Mashregh. These sites, said the report, are also engaged in money laundering.

Being too hasty in reopening inessential public places such as religious sites and schools would lead to a re-spread of coronavirus and the exhaustion of medical personnel, warned Morteza Zafarghandi, president of Iran’s Medical Council, in a letter to President Rouhani.

Khuzestan province is entering the peak phase of the epidemic locally and the number of infected cases in the province is climbing, warned Abbas Papizadeh, the MP for Dezful.

And according to Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, the health minister's representative in Ghilan, an increase in the number of travelers to the northern province of Gilan has also led an increase in coronavirus infections in this province and other parts of the country.

In a statement, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has decried the unsanitary conditions inside Iranian prisons and called for the release of prisoners of conscience and woman prisoners. “The authorities have reported the release of some tens of thousands of ‘low-level’ prisoners temporarily to control the spread,” it wrote. “However, it is not possible to verify the high number of alleged releases and authorities have thus far refused to release hundreds of peaceful political prisoners. This is no judicial oversight. It is part of a policy that looks to further punish political prisoners by keeping them in dangerous prison conditions.”

To avoid confusion among patients and doctors and to prevent mistaking coronavirus for other, similar diseases, this autumn Iran must import five times its usual supply of flu vaccines, said Saeed Mardani, a member of National Coronavirus Committee.

 

April 24:

Real Number of Coronavirus Cases is 20 Times the Official Figure

As long as there are coronavirus patients in Mashhad, it cannot be said that the province of Razavi Khorasan and its capital are safely out of "situation red", according to Dr. Hossein Bahraini, president of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. He warned today that people should remain prepared for disaster.

Masoud Yunesian, an epedemiologist and professor at Tehran Medical School, reported that only 20 percent of coronavirus cases in Iran are being hospitalized. Of these, only half are tested and the tests are valid only half of the time. As a result, he said, the real number of cases will be 20 times the official figure.

Pressure continued to mount for the reopening of religious sites during Ramadan. Ahmad Alamolhada, Mashhad's Friday Imam, said it was unfair that other locations were active but mosques and shrines were closed. He added: “According to the [Iranian] Academy of Medical Sciences, the impact of reopening mosques, places of worship and shrines would be small.”

In a phone conversation with Health Minister Saeed Namaki, President Rouhani said the reopening of religious sites and mosques was a core concern for his government and the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce: and more should be done to achieve this goal.

But Dr Alireza Zadi, head of Tehran's Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, said there could be no doubt that crowds in public spaces, parks and recreational areas were aggravating factors in the spread of coronavirus. During the fasting month of Ramadan, he warned, eating establishments that begin serving at dusk and then stay open all night could become hotspots for contagion.

In four days 700 new cases in Gilan province have been identified. Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, health minister’s representative to Gilan, said this showed that the lifting of restrictions on inter-province travel was a mistake.

Ali Akbari, MP for the provincial capital of Shiraz, said the lifting of restrictions on movement and the re-opening of some businesses have also caused an increase in coronavirus infections in Fars province in the past 10 days.

Infections are also on the increase in the province of West Azerbaijan. According to Hadi Bahadori, the MP for Urmia, eight percent of coronavirus fatalities in Iran are occuring in this province although the population is only four percent of the country's total. West Azerbaijan, he said, is one of the five provinces where the situation is most severe but where hospitals are also under-equipped.

Alim Yar-Mohammadi, an MP from Zahedan county in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, said approximately 74 percent of the population of his province who live under the food poverty line. These people are forced to work as day laborers have no other recourse but to come out of their homes, he warned. Yar-Mohammadi noted that the number of infections had so far been relatively low in this area because of the low population density, but was now on the rise.

In recent days Tehran’s traffic has swelled to 75 percent of what it was during the same period last year, announced Anooshirvan Mohsen Bandpey, governor of Tehran province. He said the number of bus and metro passengers is so high that social distancing is not possible and if this trend continues there is a serious danger that a new wave of infections will get under way. If this happens, he warned, restrictions and closures might have to be re-implemented.

The President of Qom University of Medical Sciences, Mohammad Reza Ghadiri, similarly warned that if "normalization" happens too fast in Qom and people rush out of their homes, the city could witness a second peak of coronavirus that could be even worse than the first.

The expectation that coronavirus will go away with the warmer weather has no scientific basis and any effects of warmer weather can not be predicted, warned Dr. Minoo Moharez, a member of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce.

 

April 25:

Visits to Doctors Have Declined Since the Coronavirus Outbreak

In a stunning revelation today, Mohammad Reza Nobakht, the President of Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, said: “The Supreme National Security Council and the Security Department of the Health Ministry ordered us not to publish statistics about coronavirus. They did not say why we must or must not. They just ordered medical science universities in the provinces must not publish figures. We are simply carrying out orders.”

In a letter to Mohsen Hashemi, the president of Tehran City Council, minister of culture Abas Salehi demanded council members be blocked from publishing figures that do not agree with statistics announced by the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce.

At a meeting with private sector representatives, President Rouhani claimed that even two months before the outbreak Iran had had the capability to export certain medical items.

He also conceded that the government could have provided bigger loans to vulnerable Iranians but, having considered the consequences, it had decided to lend only what it could afford.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei insisted the situation was not "red" in any province but neither could it be called normal. He claimed that throughout the epidemic the government had adhered to the “highest level of transparency” and not endangered the lives of its citizens. He went on to say that it was only on February 19 that, after a test was conducted, the government could have declared the outbreak of coronavirus with certainty.

On the same day, Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, the head of the Health Ministry’s Center for Infectious Diseases, reported that the number of coronavirus cases in provinces with a high number of visitors is on a rising trajectory.

The Health Ministry's representative in Gilan province, Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, also warned that since the lifting of restrictions on movement the spread of coronavirus through family gatherings has increased.

According to a report by the Epidemiology Committee of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, lthe ifting of restrictions and re-openings have led to an increase in the number of infections in nine provinces and to new peaks in two provinces. Rouhani also told the Taskforce that if people become less vigilant, cases might peak again and there would be no choice but to re-impose restrictions,

Visits to treatment centers numbered an average of 2.35 million per day before the outbreak. But this has declinedconsiderably in the past two months, said deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi. He added that religious locations will remain closed at least until May 4 and other re-openings will be decided later, but no decision has yet been taken about reopening schools and universities.

Harirchi also warned that unless an effective vaccine is found, there are likely to be two or three surges in COVID-19 cases in most countries of the world over the next year.

In Tehran, citizens were warned they must wear masks by member Mohammad Alikhani.

 

April 26:

Confusion Over Color-Coded Alert System

More than 64 Percent of Iranians Say They Need Financial Support

According to a survey conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA), more than 64 percent of Iranians say that they need financial help from the government to get by while the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The upward trend of infections in Ilam province is worrisome - and the blame lies with the people, according to Ghasem Soleimani, governor of the province. “We have warned people about the dangers of coronavirus but some people ignorehygiene guidelines,” he said.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said 116 cities are in a “white” situation and 134 are on a “yellow” alert. He added that religious gatherings and ceremonies are allowed only in “white” cities. Given that there are 434 cities in Iran, according to the government's preferred alerts system this means 184 of them are still in a “red” situation.

Parts of Gilan province are still in “red” and the “white” state in some areas of Gilan does not mean the coronavirus epidemic is over, added Arsalan Zare, governor of the province. He warned that if safety measures were ignored, “white” cities could revert back to “yellow” and “red” alerts.

But simultaneously Kianoush Jahanpour, the health ministry’s spokesman, said that more than 300 areas in Iran were in a “white” state and religious sites in these "areas" could reopen. He did not specify what he meant by “areas” and how they correspond to geographic or administrative divisions.

Javad Karimi, the vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that Iran has received more than USD$200,000 worth of real-time Covid-19 detection machines - known as RT-PCR - from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Hospitalizations due to coronavirus in Khuzestan province have increased by 50 percent in the last week, said Farhad Abolnejadian, acting director of Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences.

Masoumeh Shrine and Jamkaran Mosque will remain closed because the situation in Qom is not normal and hospitalizations and deaths of COVID-19 patients continue in the city, announced Bahram Sarmast, the governor of Qom province.

Heydar Eskandarpour, the mayor of Shiraz, said the metro station Vakil-e Ra'aya had been ready for use by February 1 but because of the outbreak its opening was postponed.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials still insist that it was only on February 19 that coronavirus was detected in Iran.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced he has formed a commission to investigate structural corruption in the health system and to review permits for producing and importing drugs and health equipment to ensure that they have not been issued as a result of corruption.

At the same time, coronavirus patients who have no insurance will be given insurance coverage while they are hospitalized, said Taher Mohebati, CEO of Iran’s Health Insurance Organization.

Colonel Mohammad Zahraei, commander of the Construction Basij Organization, said his organization has lost a “martyr” during operations to disinfect residential areas and neighborhoods. He did not specify whether this fatality was due to coronavirus or something else.

In a letter to university presidents across Iran, Gholam Reza Ghaffari, a deputy Minister of Science, asked them to pay Friday Imams even though Friday prayers have been suspended because of the epidemic.

 

April 27

UN Human Rights Commission: Iran Using Covid-19 as a Weapon to Quash Dissent

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean president, declared: “emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent or control the population,” and called on governments to ensure human rights are not violated under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures taken to combat Covid-19. Georgette Gagnon, director of field operations for Bachelet’s office, listed 15 countries, including Iran, that have used the epidemic as an excuse to quash dissent and silence people.

Claiming again that the coronavirus epidemic in Iran is following a downward trend, President Rouhani said that Iran has entered the “international competition” to begin efforts to create a vaccine. He also claimed that Iran would be able to export ventilators.

Since February 20, 5,011 people had been poisoned by drinking methanol alcohol and 525 of them died at medical treatment centers, according to the health ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour.

A deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, said that people must wear masks when using public transportation, including the metro, but that wearing masks in public spaces is not mandatory.

Gilan province is still considered to be at risk, and continues to be ravaged by coronavirus. No locality in the province has been deemed to be in a “white” state, meaning out of danger, according to Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, the health minister’s representative for the province.

The same is true for the province of Isfahan, according to Kamal Heydari, the vice president of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. He reported that the whole province remains in a “red” state, although the levels of danger vary across the province.

No city in Sistan and Baluchistan province is inormal and cases of coronavirus in Zahedan, the provincial capital, are now critical , said Mohammad Hashemi Shahri, president of Zahedan University of Medical Sciences.

Reza Nejati, a spokesman for Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that people in the province were ignoring social distancing rules and as a result, the rate of infection in Khuzestan has accelerated. If the current trend continues, he said, restrictions on movement and on businesses could be imposed again.

Even as the number of infections in Khuzestan is increasing, hundreds of workers at the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company have gone on strike in protest over unpaid wages, demonstrating outside the company’s management office.

Daily statistics show that the number of coronavirus infections in Kerman province is not going down. People must protect themselves because the province is not yet in a “white” state, warned Mehdi Shafiei, the spokesman for Kerman University of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “far from over” and is still disrupting normal health services, including life-saving immunization for children in the poorest countries.

Mohammad Reza Ghadir, the president of Qom University of Medical Sciences, said that people with coronavirus are like time bombs and that Qom might experience another surge.

The website Iran International has reported that in most Iranian provinces, the health ministry’s hospital information system is not correctly recording statistics regarding the number of people testing positive for coronavirus. Depending on the province, between 27 and 70 percent of test results are missing from official reports.

According to a survey conducted by the Research Center For Culture, Art And Communications, more than 91 percent of Iranians believe that self-quarantine and staying at home should continue for the time being. Eighty-two percent of the people surveyed believe that coffee shops and restaurants should remain closed and 80 percent said that schools and universities should not reopen; 61 percent oppose the complete reopening of government offices.  

 

April 28:

Millions of Iranians Have Lost Their Jobs Because of the Epidemic

In a phone conversation with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Rouhani called for an extension of Tehran-Beijing cooperation in the fight against Covid-19, and the implementation of bilateral agreements and joint infrastructure projects.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour claimed that Iran is conducting between 10 and 12 thousand coronavirus tests a day, that all coronavirus deaths had been identified and 30 percent of the beds for coronavirus patients were empty and available.

According to deputy health minister Alireza Raeesi, 60 cities in Iran, including all provincial capitals and at least one other in each province, are in “red” state, 116 cities are in “white” state and the rest, 258 cities, are in “yellow” state.

Coronavirus infections in Sistan and Baluchistan province are on the rise. Not only is there no sign that the epidemic is ending there but Iran might be witnessing the start of a second coronavirus surge, said Mohammad Hashemi, President of Zahedan University of Medical Sciences.

Hormat Rafiei, President of the Association of Air Travel Services Agencies, had reported that the sector cannot return 400 billion tomans (over $93 million) it received from customers before travel restrictions were imposed, because it has been given over to airlines and hotels that refuse to return it. But the very next day, Maghsoud Asadi, secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines, said airlines have already returned $100 billion tomans (over $23 million) of the money and Rafiei’s claim is false.

Hadi Sadati, president of the Union of Construction Workers in Mazandaran province, said construction workers have been at home for more than two months and are in a situation of such abject poverty that they now cannot even buy bread.

Between 2.78 and 6.431 million Iranians have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus epidemic, reported the Parliamentary Research Center, and households, especially those in lower deciles, are suffering financially.

Face-to-face teaching in schools is not going to return any time soon, said Education Minister Mohsen Haji Mirzaei. Final exams, he added, will take place in June during a period of three weeks and university entrance exams will be held 20 days later in July.

Iran has donated 2,000 coronavirus test kits and other medical items to Afghanistan, reported the Afghan embassy in Tehran. The aid is scheduled to be delivered by land.

All provincial governments and municipalities have been instructed to ensure passengers on public transport wear masks and gloves, reported Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Mehdi Jamali-Nejad. He warned that more than 400 thousand masks per day would be needed to carry out these instructions effectively.

Ebrahim Heydari, a municipal bus driver, was punished by Tehran Municipality after he complained that drivers for Tehran Unified Bus Company are not provided with protective gear in an interview with Mehr News Agency. His overtime pay has been stopped and he has been transferred to a more difficult shift.

Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, governor of Tehran province, denied rumors that Tehran’s drinking water had been contaminated with coronavirus. He said that the amount of chlorine in the water supply has been increased to ensure that the water remains safe.

People’s safety takes precedent over religious gatherings and in the present conditions religious figures must not insist on holding gatherings and ceremonies, including Friday Prayers, said Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem, the Friday Imam of Tabriz.

From March 10 to April 26, The website Thirty-One, which had been disseminated updated statistics and graphs about the coronavirus epidemic in Iran based on the Ministry of Health's official figures, today announced it would no longer update its figures. According to a notice on the site, the official figures of the health ministry contradict statistics announced by medical schools in a number of provinces.

 

April 29:

3,600 Arrested for Coronavirus-related “Offences” on Social Media

Traffic in central Tehran increased by 75 percent on April 29. Dr. Alireza Zali, the director of Coronavirus Combat Taskforce in Tehran, warned that levels of traffic must be reduced and stricter health protocols must be implemented in order to fight coronavirus. 

Mahmoud Vaezi, President Rouhani’s chief of staff, claimed that the media, government leaders from around the world and the head of the World Health Organization had written to Iran’s health minister, thanking Iran for its initiatives in fighting coronavirus.

Over the last two months, 13,000 people have been buried in Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery. A comparison of this number with the figures for the corresponding period last year reveals the impact of coronavirus, said Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, a member of Tehran City Council. It is worth noting that in the last two months both Behesht Zahra Cemetery and the National Organization for Civil Registration have stopped announcing the number of the deaths.

Abbas Rafati, the spokesman for Qom seminaries, wrote to President Rouhani and asked him to order that shrines be reopened and to allow religious ceremonies and gatherings to resume as long as health guidelines are observed. He said that experts’ initial assessments were wrong, and that shrines and religious gatherings are “low-risk” for the spread of coronavirus. He said Rouhani must apologize for closing them.

At the end of April, 3,600 people had been arrested for coronavirus-related “offences” online, and court cases had been opened against 1,136 of them, according to Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces.

Noting that the Covid-19 epidemic in Gilan province is “relatively” under control, Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, the health minister’s plenipotentiary representative to the province resigned from his post, and his resignation was accepted.

Ghasem Jan-Babaei, a deputy health minister, claimed that information about coronavirus patients has been dutifully recorded, but since the paperwork for the patients is contaminated, their case files are packed away for at least 10 days to prevent the contamination from spreading.

A drug that sold for 35,000 tomans ($8.15) a pack before the coronavirus epidemic is currently unavailable, or else is priced at 160,000 tomans ($37.25) a pack, said Fatemeh Hashemi, the head of the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases and the daughter of late President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Historian and scholar Ali Ramezani said that an ancient grave from the Parthian empire (274 BC – 224 AD) was discovered while a grave was being dug for a coronavirus victim in the village of Paji in the northern province of Mazandaran. Remains of a human skeleton, a broken ceramic vessel, an iron sword and a soldier’s quiver were found in the grave, which was discovered because it was necessary to dig deeper to bury coronavirus victims.

President Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting that since it is not clear when the coronavirus epidemic will end, people must be ready to go back to their jobs and resume activities. He also claimed that the government, the clergy, the Supreme Leader and the state broadcasting system have followed the advice given by coronavirus experts.

Following the closing down of the Turkish border because of the coronavirus epidemic, 98 percent of Iranian international transportation companies have been closed, said Gholamhossein Shafei, chair of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce.

 

April 30:

Health Minister: Iran Will be Hit by Both Flu and Coronavirus in Fall and Winter

“Iran is responsible for protecting prisoners, as self-protection is not an option for people deprived of liberty in overcrowded prisons,” the US-based Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran announced as it published its  report on coronavirus in Iranian prisons, and inmates’ fears of dying from the illness, a situation that has led to unrest in some facilities. “Bullets and beatings are not effective responses to prisoners’ well-founded expressions of fear,” the report said. “Withholding vital information, blaming prison unrest on social media and the outside world, and bringing in special forces rather than addressing root causes of unrest are typical responses of Islamic Republic leaders faced with popular discontent.”

The health ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour tweeted that, according to Iranian neurologists, thrombotic brain stroke — when a blood clot forms inside one of the brain's arteries — has been observed in coronavirus patients in Iran.

Dr. Alireza Biglari, director of Iran’s Pasteur Institute, claimed that the institute performs 15,000 coronavirus tests per day and has the ability to increase this this number to 45,000 a day. He did not explain why this additional capacity remained unused at the time of his announcement. Three days earlier, Kianoush Jahanpour had said that a total of between 10,000 and 12,000 coronavirus tests are conducted in Iran each day and Ghasem Jan-Babaei, a deputy health minister, said each province conducted its own tests. If this is true only 12,000 tests are performed in the whole country on a daily basis, then the Pasteur Institute’s claim that it conducts 15,000 tests a day cannot be true.

The number of coronavirus infections are increasing almost everywhere in Khuzestan province, and social restrictions could be re-imposed in the coming days, said Ali Ehsanpour, spokesman for Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences in Ahvaz.

Farnoush Nobakht, CEO of Tehran Metro Company, reported that 25 metro stations would start selling masks at the “approved” price and warned that from May 2, passengers who are not wearing masks will not be allowed in the metro.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki warned that his ministry was predicting that Iran will witness coinciding surges in influenza and coronavirus cases during the forthcoming autumn and winter months. The country must be prepared for this, he said.

Out of the 160 coronavirus cases in Qom hospitals,  50 of them are critical,  according to Mohammad Reza Ghadir, President of Qom University of Medical Sciences.

In a statement issued on the eve of May Day, the Iranian Writers Association said that the government had granted a number of financial criminals leaves of absence but had kept workers, their supporters and many other prisoners of conscience and political prisoners behind bars, even in the face of the deadly threat from coronavirus.

President Rouhani claimed that, based on reports he has received from banks, there have been increased numbers of deposits paid into saving accounts. Quoting the minister of labor, he also claimed that people have stopped applying for unemployment insurance because “they are returning to work.” He then boasted that comparisons between and Iran and other countries show that Iran has successfully dealt with coronavirus, but that the situation was ongoing, and it remains to be seen how Iran’s handling of the situation will compare with other countries at a later stage. 

The coronavirus epidemic has resurged in the northern city of Babol and the number coronavirus patients hospitalized in the city has increased to 109, the official  Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

t 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.

 

Read Iran’s coronavirus chronology for May 2020

 

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