Contact Tracing Shows Just 20 Percent of Positive Cases Observe Quarantine
The “extensive lockdown” in force across Iran entered its 11th day on December 1, with health officials claiming that public compliance with the stringent protocols stood at 90 percent. But the figures show that inter-city travel in areas on a high state of alert continues.
According to the health ministry, from Wednesday, December 2, the alert level in 38 Iranian cities will be downgraded from “red” to “orange”, meaning some restrictions can be eased. On the other hand, the grade of 23 other cities has gone from “orange” to “red”, meaning even tighter restrictions may be necessary.
It is too soon to make a definite judgment about the effectiveness of this lockdown. But for several days now, the number of confirmed Covid-19 fatalities announced by the health ministry has been below the 400 mark – which suggests the situation may have somewhat improved.
“Our criteria for alert levels is the number of hospitalizations per 100,000 population,” said Alireza Raeesi, the deputy director of Tehran National Coronavirus Taskforce. “A city is red if more than 10 patients for each 100,000 are hospitalized. More than six [and up to 10] daily hospitalizations per 100,000 thousand, and the city is orange. Four hospitalizations per 100,000 people make the city yellow. Our criteria is not based on the number of fatalities. It is the same everywhere in the world.”
The Question of National ID Cards
On Sunday, November 29, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari had said that infected individuals could be identified in under a second based on their national ID cards and would be prevented from entering government offices or using public transportation. But today Nader Tavakoli, deputy director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said that under the present conditions, this cannot be achieved across the board and is only feasible at airports and railway stations. Nevertheless, Alireza Raeesi reiterated that this measure will come into force from next week – meaning that, starting on December 5, anybody who visits a government office must carry his or her national ID card.
73 Percent of Positive Cases Violate Quarantine
Contract tracing through mobile phones that started in Tehran on November 21 shows that so far, only 20 percent of those who have tested positive for coronavirus comply with quarantining instructions and 73 percent violate it, reported Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran’s Coronavirus Taskforce. He called the situation a “time bomb” that cannot be ignored.
Dr. Zali also reported that, from next week, more rapid coronavirus test kits will be distributed, but only to government hospitals.
Isfahan has been in a critical situation but, according to provincial officials, 11 days after the enactment of lockdowns the situation is now improving. “Over the last week, as a result of these restrictions, 400 hospital beds were freed up and the daily number of hospitalizations fell by 40,” said Dr. Kamal Heydari, vice president of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. “Naturally, when fewer patients are hospitalized the number of fatalities falls as well, and the patients get a better service from health providers.”
Nevertheless, he expressed alarm that many people were not observing social distancing in various public spaces and on public transport. “Many people call health centers and say that this or that school, gym or shop is either open, or not following health protocols – but it is not us they should be reporting it to,” he said. “Each agency must be responsible for entities under its supervision and take action if violations occur.”
In the past 24 hours in Alborz province, nine more patients lost their lives to Covid-19, bringing the total for the province to 2,317. In the same time period 95 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz. Currently 796 confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus are being treated in hospitals across the province, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences.
In Yazd province, the situation is still “not normal” , said Ebrahim Soleimani, a spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours, he said, 13 more Covid-19 patients had died in Yazd, while 224 people had newly tested positive for coronavirus and 116 of them were in hospital. Currently 651 patients with Covid-19 symptoms are in hospital in Yazd, with 166 in ICUs.
Soleimani asked people not to assume that the situation was “back to normal” just because the numbers seemed to be going down. “People must take coronavirus seriously or the situation will become critical again,” he said.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 1, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
Dr. Lari also reported that all 31 Iranian provinces are in red, orange or yellow states of alert.
Restrictions Ease for Business in Tehran as Capital's Covid-19 Alert Level Downgraded
The morning of Wednesday, December 2 broke with the news that distribution of a new shipment of flu vaccine to government-picked pharmacies across Iran had begun.
Heydar Mohammadi, director-general of the Food and Drug Administration’s Drugs and Controlled Substances Department, announced that the newly imported flu vaccine will cost consumers 192,000 tomans ($47) per dose. It will only be available from pharmacies chosen by the government, and to buy them, consumers must present their national ID cards to be registered in the department’s information system. Other government officials reported the same news about the vaccine, which has reportedly been imported from France, but none of them made reference to the exact number of doses Iran has managed to acquire.
Tehran: From Red to Orange
The coronavirus alert level in a number of cities in Iran has switched either from “red” to “orange”, or from “orange” to “red”, meaning that from Saturday restrictions in these cities can either be tightened or eased. Tehran is one of the cities where the alert level will be officially downgraded on Saturday, but the director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce was quick to qualify it, saying this change had “nothing to do” with the recent lockdown and the situation was still "fragile".
Starting on Saturday, December 5, a specified group of businesses in Tehran will be able to reopen, provided they follow health protocols. Locations such as entertainment centers, daycare centers, restaurants (except for takeout), hair and beauty salons, museums, theaters, cinemas, indoor swimming pools, gyms and coffee shops will remain closed.
Air pollution in Tehran has reached a very high level and people with underlying diseases, the elderly, children and those suffering from heart problems should stay home, announced the Tehran Environmental Protection Bureau.
At the same time, Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, warned that the situation in Tehran is fragile and the drop in coronavirus-related numbers is not the result of the lockdowns that were enacted on November 21. He reported that as a result of restrictions, the load of public transportation has reduced by 30 percent. “More than 90 percent of businesses cooperated with the application of the restrictions,” he said. “33,000 vehicles were prevented from entering Tehran and 25,000 vehicles were prevented from driving during the curfew at night,” reported Dr. Zali.
Some restrictions such as the ban on ceremonies, the limit on the number of employees that can work in person and the nighttime curfew on traffic will remain in place.
Lockdowns and restrictions in Alborz province are to continue until at least Saturday, December 5. Alireza Soleimani, spokesman for Alborz Coronavirus Taskforce, said that although the province is still in a red state of alert, the authorities have yet to announce whether these restrictions will be renewed or not.
On Tuesday, December 1, the spokesman for the taskforce announced that the level in 38 cities has been downgraded from red to orange, meaning some restrictions in these cities will be suspended. Among the cities in Alborz province only one, Nazar Abad, was on the list.
Currently 792 patients with coronavirus symptoms are hospitalized across Alborz and in the past 24 hours, 108 new patients were hospitalized. In the same time period 13 other patients died and the total death toll in the province from Covid-19 reached 2,334.
In the past 24 hours 10 Covid-19 patients died in the province of Kermanshah, bringing the total death toll to 1,277 in the province, reported Mehdi Mohammadi, a spokesman for Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences. In the same 24 hours 115 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized and now 664 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province.
The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Yazd province has now fallen below 600, reported Dr. Ebrahim Soleimani, spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences. In the past 24 hours another 165 coronavirus patients tested positive in the province and 10 patients lost their lives to the virus. Currently 590 patients with coronavirus symptoms are hospitalized in Yazd.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 2, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
For the first time in her briefings, Dr. Lari did not report the level of alert in various Iranian provinces. She did report that currently 64 cities are red, 278 are orange and 106 are yellow.
Sanctions Blamed for Lack of Both Flu and Coronavirus Vaccines
Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused the US of “crimes against humanity” because it had prevented Iran from purchasing a Covid-19 vaccine. “The situation in Iran is very bad,” he said in an interview on December 3. “Iran is being hit by the third wave of coronavirus. Our medical personnel is doing the best that it can [but] we are suffering from an economic war. The US is even preventing us from accessing our own money to buy coronavirus vaccines. And they are lying if they say otherwise.”
This echoes claims made about the flu vaccine earlier in the year. In fact, it would appear that the narrative of the coronavirus vaccine in Iran is repeating the same pattern as the flu vaccine followed earlier this year.
After alarms were raised that the flu season would coincide with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the health ministry assured people that it was importing more than 12 million doses of flu vaccines and that they would be distributed as the colder season arrived.
Despite the fact that practically every single health ministry official talked about the flu vaccine in late summer and early autumn, no further information about the domestic production of a flu vaccine has become available since that time.
In the end, a little more than two million doses of flu vaccine were distributed for the inoculation of high-risk groups such as those suffering from underlying diseases, the elderly and pregnant women. The government announced that it had purchased the promised doses of flu vaccine but, due to sanctions, it has been prevented from importing them.
There was another similarity between the government’s statements about coronavirus and flu vaccines: debate over their effectiveness.
On December 5, President Rouhani pointed out that no vaccine was 100 percent effective. “Even if we get a good and effective vaccine and we make it available to the people, we must still follow health protocols because it is not clear how effective it is, what the complications will be and how long it will take the vaccine to work after it is injected.”
At the same time officials were making promises about the flu vaccine earlier in the year, many of them also talked of the “ineffectiveness” of the flu vaccine.
As well as officials talking about the domestic production of flu vaccine, there have also been reports that Iran is developing its own vaccine. According to Health Minister Saeed Namaki, there has been progress: the next step is to test the vaccine on humans.
There have recently been many reports about coronavirus vaccines that have proved effective in trials. On December 3, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine. The Islamic Republic has announced many times that it is ready to buy Covid-19 vaccines and there have been unconfirmed reports that it will be paid for out of the National Development Fund. But again, such promises are undermined by doubts over the effectiveness of these vaccines and by a tendency to blame sanctions for anything the government is unable to provide.
Confusion Over Alert Levels
The Iranian National Coronavirus Taskforce designates a city as being in a red state of alert if 10 individuals out of 100,000 of the population have tested positive for coronavirus on a daily basis. If the number is nine or less, then the city is determined to be in an orange state of alert. This method of classification has been very confusing because in many places, even if only one less individual tests positive, the alert status changes from red to orange, allowing some businesses to reopen and, as result, spread the virus again.
One example is Tehran, the most populous city in the country. Based on the taskforce’s definition, the situation in a city does not change noticeably when it goes from red to orange or vice versa. Tehran, which was downgraded to orange alert on December 5, will not be very different from Tehran the week before, when the city was on red alert. It appears as though every week or two the government tends to change the alert level so that some businesses can reopen for a while. Based on the ordinance issued by the National Coronavirus Taskforce, only essential businesses can remain open if a city is on red alert, while if it becomes orange, businesses falling under “category 2” are allowed to reopen.
“Category 2” businesses and places include indoor and outdoor shopping malls, roofed bazaars, large shopping centers, car dealerships, sports clubs, barbershops for men, cosmetics and health shops, carpet sellers, homeware outlets, gift and toy shops, garment shops, photographers, real estate agents, digital printing services, cooked food preparation centers provided they follow health guidelines, confectionaries and fruit juice and ice cream sellers. These businesses can remain open as long as the alert level is orange, but when and if a city is deemed to be in a red state alert, these businesses must close down.
The situation has led Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, president of Tehran City Council, to speak out in protest. Tehran has a population of about nine million, he said, and “if 900 coronavirus patients are hospitalized then the situation is red, but it is orange if this number is less than 900. The dividing line between red and orange must be better defined. To announce that the situation is orange if 899 are hospitalized and red if 901 are hospitalized is not very scientific or logical and it must be corrected.”
Even President Rouhani appears to be aware of this problem. “Tehran is in an orange state of alert but we are on the verge of going back to red,” he said. “If necessary precautions are not taken and enough control is not applied, Tehran might return to a red state of alert in two weeks.”
Commenting on the first day Tehran was moved into an orange alert category, Nader Tavakoli, deputy director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said: “it is natural that traffic with public transportation will increase again but, perhaps, the nighttime traffic curfew has trained people to comply with health protocols.” Some would say this is wishful thinking.
According to Tavakoli, the number of patients in a critical condition is still high.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 5, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:
Dr. Lari reported that currently 64 cities are red, 278 are orange and 106 are yellow
According to her, the average number of hospitalizations during the week from November 28 to December 5 was 17 per 100,00 of the population. The provinces of Ilam, Semnan, Ardebil, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad and Yazd had the highest number of hospitalizations, well above the national average. The average number of fatalities for the same seven days was 36 per one million of the population and the provinces of Yazd, Kurdistan, Ardebil and South Khorasan had the highest number of deaths.
The health ministry spokeswoman warned that despite the reduction in the number of red cities and the drop in coronavirus fatalities in the last week “the rate of hospitalizations in some provinces such as Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan is rising and the situation is unstable and fragile despite relative improvements.”
December 6: Fears in Tehran as Restrictions Lifted Despite High Numbers of Covid-19 Cases
After two weeks of 70 percent of the city being locked down, the alert level in Tehran was downgraded from red to orange on Saturday, December 5. The change meant that traffic on thoroughfares and on city streets increased, mainly due to the fact that many businesses have been allowed to reopen since the capital is no longer on the highest alert.
Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, president of Tehran City Council, reported that, in the 24-hour period spanning December 5 and December 6, 100 people in Tehran had died from coronavirus. He said, based on this, he believed the city should still be on high alert. Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, warned that the situation in the nation’s capital was not stable. On Saturday, December 5, President Rouhani warned that Tehran was “on the verge” of returning to a red state of alert. Nevertheless, the traffic in Tehran had returned to the way it had been two weeks before, prompting fears of another surge in the number of infections.
In less than a week the number of daily Covid-19 fatalities in Iran fell to less than 400 from close to 500 and, on December 6, it was 294, although the number of confirmed cases had risen. Health officials claim the increase is due the fact that more coronavirus tests are being carried out.
The Fall Could be Followed by a Rise
Nevertheless, health officials continued to voice concern. “During a pandemic, a fall in the number of infections might be followed by a stronger return of the contagion,” said Dr. Alireza Zali. “Therefore, both the people and the officials must be on guard because coronavirus is still claiming victims in Tehran. The city is contaminated by the virus and the virus is still conquering biological trenches. From an expert point of view, we are still relatively far from the ultimate downfall of the contagion.”
According to Nader Tavakoli, deputy director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, the number of hospitalizations in Tehran had fallen from over 6,000 in previous weeks to around 4,000.
3,000 Vehicles Fined
During the 14 days when extensive coronavirus lockdowns were implemented in many cities, traffic across the country fell by 40 percent, reported Ahmad Shirani, head of the Center for Highway Traffic Information and Control of the National Police. According to him, between November 21 and December 5, approximately 300,000 drivers were fined for driving in banned areas or during the curfew, which was in place between 9pm and 4am. Depending on the type of violation, drivers have been fined 200,000 tomans ($49), 500,000 tomans ($122) or one million tomans ($244).
Domestic Vaccine? Perhaps in Summer 2021
Dr. Minoo Moharez, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee and the leading scientist in the project to develop a domestic Covid-19 vaccine, reported that the vaccine had recently received a permit from the Food and Drug Administration to start testing on humans. If results in this phase prove to be as successful and as promising as they were during animal testing, the vaccine could go into production by the middle of next summer. According to her, the vaccine had been 70 percent effective in tests on animals. She added that a foreign-produced coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to arrive in Iran until next summer.
The production of drugs to treat coronavirus symptoms in Iran has increased tenfold, claimed Heydar Mohammadi, director general of the Food and Drug Administration’s Drugs and Controlled Substances Department. He said that Iran was even ready to export some coronavirus treatment drugs.
He also reported that currently more than 500,000 vials of Remdesivir are used and consumed in Iran each month. A large number of these, he said, are produced domestically but, because of the increase in the number of hospitalizations in recent weeks, some of the Remdesivir had to be imported.
Reports from various provinces show that, on average, the number of coronavirus fatalities and hospitalizations has fallen compared to the previous week.
In the last 24 hours in Kurdistan, 71 more patients were hospitalized, bringing the current number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the province to 398. The major share of hospitalized patients, 254, are in the provincial capital of Sanandaj. In addition, 95 of the hospitalized patients are being treated at ICUs. In the same 24 hours three more patients died and the death toll in the province now stands at 970.
In Kermanshah, over the last 24 hours, 95 new patients were hospitalized and 113 patients were discharged from hospitals following their recovery. Currently, 554 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province. With the death of another nine patients in the last 24 hours, the official death toll from Covid-19 in the province had reached 1,314 by December 6.
In Alborz, the number of coronavirus fatalities has fallen to around 10 per day, a considerable drop from preceding weeks that was at times even higher than 20. As of December 6, the total death toll in the province stands at 2,377. In the last 24 hours, 81 more patients with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz, bringing the current total of hospitalizations across the province to 733.
Unlike many other provinces that have witnessed some improvements, the pandemic is still running amuck in Fars. In the 24 hours spanning December 5 and December 6, 36 more Covid-19 patients died, bringing the total number of fatalities in the province to 2,685 although, according to Ali Akbari, vice president of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, the number of patients who need to be hospitalized has fallen.
“Currently,” said Akbari, “1,567 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province, 303 of them in ICUs.”
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 6, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
Dr. Lari reported that currently, 64 cities are in a red state of alert, 278 are in an orange state and 106 are in a yellow state of alert
December 7: Iran’s Hospitals Under Pressure as Health Workers Wait to be Paid
After 10 months of non-stop struggle against the pandemic, Iran’s medical community is exhausted and many health workers have had to leave the workforce after becoming ill. According to the latest information, approximately 40,000 nurses in Iran have been infected with coronavirus, reducing the medical workforce significantly. One of the main reasons behind the recent extensive lockdowns was to give the medical workforce an opportunity to recuperate from these losses, and it appears that, with the drop in the number of hospitalizations in Iran, as meager as it might be, this goal has been achieved to a certain point.
“As of now we have received permits to hire 7,000 health workers, 30 percent of whom will be nurses," said Maryam Hazrati, deputy health minister for nursing. “Also, the deputy minister for development has received the go-ahead to hire 30,000 health workers and we hope that a significant portion of them will be nurses so that we can partially compensate for the shortage.”
In addition to everything else, the payment of the salaries of many health workers who work for universities of medical sciences across Iran have not been processed.“The arrears in the case of some universities has been reduced from 14 months to around six months and we hope that the accounts will be settled soon,” Hazrati said.
Coronavirus Numbers Fall but Health Officials Warn the Situation is Still “Fragile”
Less than three weeks after extensive lockdowns were imposed on many cities across Iran, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations and fatalities has dropped and the level of alert in many cities has been downgraded from red to orange. Nevertheless, health officials continue to warn people that the situation is still fragile and another coronavirus surge is possible, along with it the possibility that Iran could return to the critical situation it experienced in the weeks preceding the lockdowns.
In the meantime, there were widespread reports about the development of a domestic vaccine and the purchase of vaccines from other countries. Some of these reports, however, were confusing and contradictory.
On Sunday, December 6, Dr. Minoo Moharez, the lead scientist in the development of a domestic vaccine and a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, had reported that the vaccine would go into production by next summer. A day later, however, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, deputy speaker of the parliament, tweeted that administration of the vaccine would begin after the start of the new Iranian calendar year on March 21. “Today we had a meeting with the scientists and the officials of responsible agencies about the production of an Iranian Covid-19 vaccine,” he wrote. “What became clear was that the first doses of the vaccine will be ready by the end of the [Iranian] year and the mass production will start after the new year.”
According to Dr. Moharez, the domestic vaccine, like those developed in China and Russia, is based on the “weakened” strains of coronavirus.
Speaking about importing foreign-made Covid-19 vaccines, Abdolnaser Hemmati, governor of Iran’s Central Bank, announced that every effort to buy vaccines from abroad had been blocked by American sanctions and because the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had refused to issue the permits. “Of course, we are exploring other ways to transfer the money,” he said.
On the same day, however, Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said sanctions would have no effect on the distribution of coronavirus vaccines. “We are not a poor country and, when the time comes, the government of the Islamic Republic will definitely buy the vaccine for high-risk groups until the development of a domestic vaccine bears fruit,” he said.
Dr. Mohammad Talebpour, president of Tehran’s Sina Hospital, reported that, starting two weeks ago, the number of hospitalizations at the institution had fallen by 50 percent. He said that of the four wards allocated to Covid-19 patients, one has been closed and a second one might be closed soon. Nevertheless, he said the current situation is very fragile. “Compared to last week, our fatalities this week have been less, but not to a very significant degree.”
Reza Hesari, 37, an employee of the Waste Management Organization of Tehran responsible for collecting the waste from three hospitals in the Iranian capital, died from coronavirus after a year working with the organization. Waste management workers and garbage collectors are among the groups at high risk of coronavirus infection, especially if they are assigned to hospitals and other treatment centers.
According to the Waste Management Organization’s public relations office, currently 120 special trucks and 120 operators are tasked with collecting garbage from hospitals and treatment centers in Tehran.
Nighttime Traffic Curfew to Continue in Tehran
Tehran’s state of alert was downgraded from red to orange on Saturday, December 5, but Colonel Jahan-Shah Bahram Abadi, deputy commander of the Greater Tehran Highway Police, announced that the traffic curfew from 9pm to 4am will remain in place. He reported an increase in traffic in the capital since Saturday.
There were reports that some car owners had defaced their license plates to bypass restrictions and to confuse surveillance cameras. Colonel Bahram Abadi warned drivers who did this “not only commit traffic violations but they are considered lawbreakers and will be sent to court.”
In other news from Tehran, the management of Milad Tower, a multi-purpose complex including a five-star hotel, announced that since the nation’s capital is now in an orange state of alert, it was ready to accept tourists.
In the 24-hour period from December 6 to December 7, four coronavirus patients died in Kermanshah, bringing the death toll for the province to 1,318. Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences reported that the number of hospitalizations and outpatients continues to fall. Nevertheless, with the increase in the number of gatherings and ceremonies, health officials worry that the number of infections will rise again.
Currently, 517 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across Kermanshah, a drop of 1,200, or 57 percent, compared to November 7.
In Semnan, too, the number of Covid-19 fatalities has fallen and it is now an average of one per day. The coronavirus death toll in the province now stands at 791. Provincial health officials believe the significant drop is a result of the two-week extensive lockdowns that started on November 21 and were extended for a longer period in red and orange areas. In the last week, the number of fatalities in Semnan reached two digits only once.
In the last 24 hours, 51 new patients were hospitalized in Semnan, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 285, the lowest number since the latest coronavirus surge in the province.
In Khuzestan, 50 percent of ICU beds allocated to Covid-19 patients were occupied as of December 7, reported Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences. He expressed concern that the situation might deteriorate with the arrival of winter because “doors would be closed and heaters would be turned on.”
In the last week, some cities in Khuzestan have been hit hard by floods, raising the prospect that coronavirus could surge again in the province.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 7, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:
December 8: Iran in Fragile Recovery but Fears Loom as Winter Solstice Celebration Approaches
Iranians traditionally celebrate Yalda, the night of the winter solstice and the longest night in the year in the northern hemisphere, by getting together with family and close friends. This year the holiday falls on December 30. “Our biggest worry is the family get-togethers for the ceremonies of Yalda,” Ali Rabiei, the government’s spokesman, said. “We hope that families will help to cut the coronavirus transmission chain by observing health protocols and by not participating in family gatherings.”
Because of the fall in the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities, the alert level in some Iranian cities has been downgraded to orange or yellow, meaning that some businesses have been allowed to reopen in addition to those offering essential goods and services. In big cities like Tehran, however, this has led to a sharp increase in traffic and crowded public transportation, which could lead to another surge in infections. In the meantime, the purchase and the development of coronavirus vaccine is still the most talked-about story in the news.
Tehran City Council Calls for Extension of Restrictions
Calling for the extension of coronavirus restrictions in Tehran, Ebrahim Amini, vice president of Tehran City Council, said that “the reopening of places that were closed and employees’ return to their various workplaces have resulted in an increase in Tehran’s traffic and in the use of public transportation.”
At the same time, Tehran’s police commander reported that Tehran’s traffic has been heavy between 6pm and 10pm and warned that people who break the traffic curfew between 9pm and 4am will be identified through surveillance cameras and will face fines.
Rabiei advised anybody that has been closer than two meters to an individual who has tested positive for coronavirus to go into quarantine so that the transmission chain will be broken sooner. At the moment, he said, authorities are tracing people who have tested positive for coronavirus and 4,600 individuals have been prevented from boarding planes, trains and buses.
According to him, more than 85 percent of the public are complying with health protocols. He said the traffic curfew from 9pm to 4pm had been effective and the curfew must continue in cities in a red or orange state of alert.
Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the health ministry’s public relations and the spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, announced that negotiations for the pre-purchase of around 21 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from four vaccine-producing countries are in progress. He said that Iran’s Food and Drug Administration is paying special attention to the evaluation and approval of reputable international health organizations.
According to Jahanpour, Iran has already signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to pre-purchase 16.8 million doses of coronavirus through COVAX (Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator), a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.
However, he warned that “sanctions have cast a shadow over all vaccine purchases and banking transactions. [But] the government and the health ministry are doing their best to import early in 2021 the first shipment of the 42 million doses that we plan to buy from other countries.”
In recent days there have been numerous reports from different sources about an Iranian-manufactured coronavirus vaccine. According to Dr. Majid Shirani, president of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari University of Medical Sciences, there is a good chance that this vaccine will be ready for distribution in the next four to six months. He said the vaccine will enter the phase of human testing soon and, if the results are satisfactory, it will be mass-produced.
In the 24-hour period spanning December 7 and December 8, in Alborz province 18 people with Covid-19 died, bringing the death toll for the province to 2,409, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the same 24 hours 83 new patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz and currently 667 suspected and confirmed cases are being treated in hospitals across the province.
After two weeks of extensive lockdowns the situation in Alborz is improving but in recent days the number of fatalities in the province has risen again.
In Kermanshah province in the past 24 hours, 10 more Covid-19 patients died and the death toll for the province now stands at 1,328. In the same 24 hours, 39 new patients were hospitalized and 40 outpatients tested positive for coronavirus. Currently 490 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across Kermanshah.
Amir Deldari, director of inspections of Mashhad Chamber of Guilds, announced that the city is still in a red state of alert and businesses that could have opened if the state of alert were orange will be locked down for another two weeks. “Fortunately, all malls in Mashhad have complied with restrictions and are locked down and we have no reports that any of the businesses have reopened without permits.”
Ardebil University of Medical Sciences reported that the province is still in a red state of alert and in the past 24 hours 11 more Covid-19 patients have died and 65 new patients have been hospitalized. According to the latest statistics, as of December 8, the death toll in the province stands at 1,130. Currently, 475 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across Ardebil.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 8, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:
Dr. Lari reported that currently 64 cities are in a red state of alert, 278 are in an orange state and 106 are in yellow.
Health Minister Claims Iran is Free of New Coronavirus Strain
The Iranian health minister Saeed Namaki has announced that the new variant of coronavirus, which appears to spread more easily and quickly, has not reached Iran and three Iranians who had returned from the United Kingdom, where there are high cases of the variant, have tested negative.
Meanwhile, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration has announced that Iran is currently producing all the medication needed to treat Covid-19 patients.
When the pandemic started, more than 90 percent of all medication needed to treat Covid-19 patients were imported, but, according to Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, the situation is now very different. He said that a year after the pandemic started, there were still no specific drugs to treat coronavirus patients, but “auxiliary” drugs used to treat the disease — with varying levels of effectiveness — such as Remdesivir are now produced in Iran.
In recent months Iranian officials have repeatedly claimed that Iran is self-sufficient in the production of such medications.
The trial of an Iranian vaccine on humans started on December 29. Health minister Saeed Namaki said that “besides this domestic vaccine, we intended to procure vaccines from reliable sources and we are in the process of purchasing vaccines. In announcing the good news that an Iranian vaccine is on the way we do not want to keep people waiting for this vaccine.”
In the meantime, air pollution in metropolitan areas across Iran has increased in recent days and there is the possibility that a temporary lockdown of Tehran will be imposed. There is also concern that infections will increase during the upcoming religious ceremonies known as Fatimiyya days, when Muslims, and especially Shias, mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammad’s youngest daughter Fatimah al-Zahra.
Health minister Namaki appealed to people to conduct religious ceremonies during Fatimiyya days in the way they did for the Islamic lunar calendar month of Muharram in August and September when Shias mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hossein in 680 AD. The advice was strange, given that numerous health experts had said that Muharram ceremonies were one of the main causes of the sharp rise in the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities in late summer and early autumn.
Namaki reported that the situation in the northern province of Mazandaran is “not favorable” and the number of hospitalizations and fatalities in the province is on an upward trend. In the last weeks, five of the 12 cities in a red state of alert were located in Mazandaran and, with more than 1,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations, it, along with several other Iranian provinces, faces a critical situation.
According to the latest figures announced by the health ministry, the number of coronavirus fatalities in Iran has risen for the second day in a row and the situation in Fars and Kerman was also described as very unstable.
The city of Tehran has been suffering from the worst air pollution in a year. Experts have warned about the damage air pollution can do with regards to coronavirus. “Pollutants can increase the chances of coronavirus infection,” said Dr. Mohammad Reza Zahedpour Anaraki, a pulmonary diseases specialist. “Coronavirus attaches itself to pollutants and can transmit the disease. That is why wearing masks is advised. The virus is hanging in the air and it is transmitted rapidly, especially in crowded places and where traffic is high.”
On November 5 and 6, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Tehran was 6,700 but now it has fallen to 2,300, reported Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, governor of Tehran province. According to him, the daily number of fatalities has also fallen to around 28. However, he said, “proposals have been submitted to the first vice president and the cabinet to declare a temporary lockdown for a day or two if the situation deteriorates.”
Over the last two weeks, the number of coronavirus fatalities in Golestan had surged but during the last week in December it began falling, according to Paniz Sadraei, vice president of Golestan University of Medical Sciences. Sadraei reported that currently, between 10 and 11 Covid-19 patients die in the province every day. She warned that if health protocols are not observed, Golestan would return to a red state of alert.
Based on the latest reports, all cities in Kermanshah are now in a yellow state of alert and there are no longer any red or orange cities in the province. In the 24-hour period spanning December 29 and December 30, 55 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in the province and 47 patients were discharged from hospitals after recovery. As of December 30, 180 coronavirus patients were hospitalized across Kermanshah and, with the death of one person with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the death toll in the province has reached 1,424.
In the last 24 hours, 48 more people with Covid-19 were hospitalized in Kurdistan. Currently 155 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province, 34 of them in intensive care units (ICUs). And with the death of another three coronavirus patients, the official death toll in the province from the pandemic reached 1,034.
In the last 24 hours, 34 people with confirmed cases of Covid-19 were hospitalized in Ardebil and 27 were discharged from the hospitals. Currently 258 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province, 70 of them in ICUs.
Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics
In her daily briefing for December 30, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:
This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology