As Iran continues to plunge into a second wave of coronavirus, President Rouhani has boasted about his government's masterful handling of the crisis. “Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic of Iran and our nation shone in its comprehensive fight against coronavirus,” he told a meeting with senior officials from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) on August 17.
“Despite facing unprecedented and oppressive US sanctions and increasing pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, the government has been able to manage the situation well,” Rouhani said, “and other heads of state and governments have repeatedly expressed surprise about how the government has been able to manage the country under severe sanctions and economic consequences of coronavirus.”
A few days before, on August 12, Health Minister Saeed Namaki had claimed that a number of coronavirus vaccines being developed in Iran had successfully passed initial tests on patients and would soon enter the clinical trial phase. But then, on August 17, there was a conflicting claim, with the head of the epidemiology department at Iran’s Pasteur Institute reporting that vaccines are still in the last phases of animal testing and have yet to reach a phase where human testing could begin. According to Dr. Ehsan Mostafavi, the human testing phrase is split into three parts. It remains unclear where Namaki’s claim about the “clinical trial” of the vaccines came from.
A Strong Health System and Pioneering Technology
Rouhani dismissed what he described as foreign media propaganda claims that the second wave of the epidemic had been due to the economy reopening. He ignored the fact that over the last few months, officials from his own health ministry have repeatedly criticized hasty reopening of businesses and public spaces.
Instead, Rouhani and other officials have accused “enemies” of trying to use the pandemic to shut down the country. He thanked the country's National Coronavirus Taskforce, which, he said, had helped see off potentially much bigger problems.
Since mid-June, government officials have repeatedly denied that Iran is experiencing a second wave, maintaining that in many places, it is still dealing with the aftermath of the first spike in cases and deaths. Rouhani also claimed that many other countries were experiencing second waves.
Rouhani emphasized that the provision for and strengthening of the country’s healthcare infrastructure was bolstering the country’s fight against coronavirus. ”The doubling of the country's health infrastructure over the last seven years has helped us to allocate 30,000 hospital beds to Covid-19 patients,” Rouhani said, adding, “we did not face any problem with ICU beds anywhere". Iran’s pioneering telecommunications was also playing a role, he said.
Rouhani’s claim that the country “did not face any problem with ICU beds” flies in the face of a range of reports over the last six months regarding shortages of ICU beds. In one recent example on August 15, Dr. Alireza Salimi, vice president of Iran’s Medical Council, said that with the increase in the number of coronavirus patients in a critical condition existing ICU beds would not be enough to deal with the situation.
The absence of a Covid-19 vaccine has made the reopening of schools, scheduled for September 5, highly problematic. Under present conditions, said Deputy Education Minister Shapur Mohammad-Zadeh, there are three scenarios for the coming school year:
- In coronavirus-free areas, classes will be held in person;
- In areas in a yellow or orange state of alert, 50 percent of classes will be conducted online and 50 percent will be in person, and the students will be divided in two groups so that members of each group will attend school for three days a week on alternate days, and;
- In areas in a red state of alert, all classes will be held online supported by television and the Education Ministry’s SHAD remote learning system.
From the very first days of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, the emergency system had a detailed plan for handling the situation, claimed Pir Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s National Emergency Organization. He reported that since the outbreak of coronavirus, calls for emergency services had increased four times.
According to Kolivand, emergency medical services had not been disrupted by the coronavirus crisis and, after six months of the crisis, he said, his colleagues are still on full alert and all leaves of absence had been canceled. He reported that in the last six months 1,900 emergency personnel have been infected with coronavirus and four of them had died.
The National Library of Iran announced that it would close down from Tuesday, August 18 to comply with health guidelines issued by the National Coronavirus Taskforce and to prevent further spread of coronavirus in Tehran, which remains in a red state of alert. The library said the closure would stay in place until the taskforce announced a change for the better. In the six months since the official confirmation of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, this is at least the third time that the national library has shut its doors to the public.
In her daily briefing, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari said that, as of August 17,15 provinces are still in a red state of alert and 11 provinces are in an orange state.
- Red: Mazandaran, Tehran, Qom, Golestan, North Khorasan, Ardebil, Isfahan, Alborz, Razavi Khorasan, Kerman, Semnan, East Azerbaijan, Markazi, Yazd and Gilan
- Orange: Fars, Ilam, Lorestan, Hormozgan, Zanjan, Qazvin, West Azerbaijan, Bushehr, Hamedan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad
In the same briefing, Dr. Lari also announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24-hour period:
- New coronavirus cases: 2,247
- New hospitalizations: 1,255
- Total cases since the outbreak: 345,255
- Total coronavirus tests conducted in Iran: 2,887,938
- Total recovered from coronavirus: 299,157
- New fatalities: 165
- Total death toll since the outbreak: 19,804
This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology