As January began, many provinces across Iran were in a fragile state with regard to coronavirus cases. Although the situation seemed to stabilize toward the end of 2020, with no cities on “red” or high alert, as 2021 got underway, four cities were back in the high danger zone. The situation was exacerbated by severe air pollution in 10 major metropolitan areas, including Tehran and Isfahan. There were also concerns that religious ceremonies for the forthcoming Fatimiyya days, when Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Fatimah al-Zahra, the Prophet Mohammad’s youngest daughter, could result in a fresh surge in numbers.

 

 

January 2: 

Air Pollution Could Mean New Spike in Covid Cases

 

Every Saturday, the National Coronavirus Taskforce reports the level of coronavirus alert in Iranian cities. During the last week in December, no city in Iran was in a red state of alert, but this week the level of alert in four cities in the northern province of Mazandaran reverted to red, raising concerns that, at least in parts of Iran, the number of coronavirus infections might rise again. At the same time, increased air pollution in metropolitan areas poses a danger, especially to those with underlying respiratory diseases.

Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said the third outbreak of coronavirus in Tehran has been on a downward curve, but this downward trend has moved slowly because of the density of the population, and has been aggravated by air pollution. “Air pollution hurts parts of the respiratory system and this weakens the individual in the face of coronavirus,” he said.

And Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, governor of Tehran province, reported that he had asked the government for a two-day lockdown of all government and private offices and industrial units in the province. In recent days, Tehran’s air quality has been declared “unhealthy,” posing danger to high-risk groups including patients suffering from pulmonary diseases, pregnant women, children and the elderly.

According to the latest reports, air pollution in the 10 metropolitan areas of Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, Zanjan, Arak, Ahvaz, Qazvin, Qom, Tabriz and Mashhad has reached a “dangerous” level.

 

Provinces Round-up

Compliance with health protocols across Iran has exceeded 86 percent, claimed Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce. “Fortunately the disease is on a downward trend across the country,” he said. “Compared to five weeks ago the number of hospitalizations has fallen by almost one-fourth and the number of fatalities is now less than one-third.” Despite this good news, however, he also reported that the northern province of Mazandaran appeared to be on the verge of a third wave of coronavirus, the state of alert in four cities in the province has been elevated to red and 18 cities are in an orange state of alert.

In the last 24 hours 166 people with suspected cases of Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals under the supervision of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, reported Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of the university. Currently 1,002 patients with coronavirus symptoms are being treated in these hospitals, 201 of them in ICUs.

Dr. Farzad Jalili, president of Babol University of Medical University, also in Mazandaran province, reported that currently 192 people with Covid-19 symptoms are being treated in hospitals associated with the university. Taken together, this means that currently 1,194 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the province.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, approximately 23,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the city of Tehran, reported Nahid Khoda Karami, chairwoman of Tehran City Council’s Health Committee. Of this number, she said, around 14,000 were men and 9,000 were women. According to Khoda Karami, infections and fatalities in Tehran have been on a downward curve and in recent weeks the number of fatalities has been falling by 10 each day.

The number of cities in Razavi Khorasan in a yellow state of alert is currently 30. Only four cities, including the provincial capital of Mashhad, are in an orange state of alert, reported Mehdi Gholian, vice president of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. He said the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations had fallen to around 125 per day, while in late November it exceeded 400 each day.

Currently, he said, 216 Covid-19 patients are being treated in intensive care units in Razavi Khorasan. In the last 24 hours 1,086 coronavirus tests were conducted in the province, of which 22 percent were positive, whereas prior to this the positive rate had between 45 and 50 percent.

In recent weeks the rate of coronavirus infections in Bushehr has been falling as well, but in the last 24 hours, with the hospitalization of 22 new Covid-19 cases, the number increased again, although no new fatalities were reported. Currently 70 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in the province, 19 of them in intensive care units. Five people in this group of patients are hooked up to ventilators. As of January 2, the coronavirus death toll in the province stands at 839.

With the death of three other Covid-19 patients in the last 24 hours in Alborz, the official death toll in the province reached 2,588, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. With the hospitalization of 24 new patients, currently 344 patients with coronavirus symptoms are hospitalized in the province. The coronavirus state of alert in Alborz is currently orange.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 2, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

 

 

 

January 3: Iran to Work with Cuba on Coronavirus Vaccine

 

The Islamic Republic has joined forces with Cuba to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, a senior health official has claimed. 

As fears mount about a rise in coronavirus cases, Iranian health minister Saeed Namaki announced that Iran was working with another country to jointly produce a new coronavirus vaccine, though he stopped short of citing any specifics.

Prior to this, however, Kianoush Jahanpour, acting as a spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, had reported that Iran and Cuba were working together on a vaccine.

The coronavirus vaccine is still the key preoccupation for both the media and the political arena, and for many members of the public too. President Rouhani expressed hope that Iran would be able to procure a vaccine in the coming weeks, while the health minister asked the public to regard him as the authority on the subject and discount all other theories, claims and rumors.

“We will procure the vaccine for the people from different sources,” said health minister Saeed Namaki. “I have said many times that when it comes to news about the vaccine, listen only to the health minister, a person who is experienced and knowledgeable in this area.”

Namaki also claimed that, as of early January, the clinical trial for the Iranian vaccine had been successful and said the final results would be announced 28 days after the second round of injections on February 9. He said he hoped the domestic vaccine would be ready “in late spring 2021 at the latest.”

During a cabinet meeting on January 3, President Rouhani said: "the Central Bank, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Plan and Budget Organization, together with the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for the necessary expertise, should plan to purchase and transfer vaccines to the country faster. We hope the purchase and the transfer of Covid-19 vaccine will be accomplished in coming weeks.”

 

Who Will be Vaccinated First?

Namaki said he had appointed a team to assign priority for vaccination for vulnerable people. He said when the vaccine “arrives in Iran” high-risk groups will be invited to be the first to be vaccinated.

According to deputy health minister Alireza Raeesi, high-risk groups include medical staff working in ICUs and in direct contact with coronavirus, elderly people living in nursing homes, those over 75, individuals with underlying or difficult-to-cure diseases, individuals undergoing chemotherapy and those suffering from “several diseases at the same time.” He said these groups will be prioritized for vaccination, adding that the process will be carried out in four phases. “We must carry them out depending on how many vaccines we get. I believe that everybody must be clearly informed of the priorities so that they will know how the distribution of the vaccine is going to work.”

The sharp rise in air pollution in at least 10 Iranian metropolitan areas has sparked fears that the number of coronavirus infections will increase. Despite this, Iranian officials have not agreed to lock down the capital Tehran and other cities.

 

Provinces Round-up

The situation in Iranian provinces is relatively stable except in Mazandaran. More than 40 days after extensive lockdowns in the province went into effect, the situation has deteriorated. On January 3, the National Coronavirus Taskforce announced that the alert level in four cities had reverted to full, or red, state of alert, and four other cities are on the verge of going red.

Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, said the first wave of coronavirus in Iran started in February 2020, the second in July and the third wave in October, but the third wave did not reach Mazandaran, which remained in a stable situation. He said changes in people’s behavior, including their travel behavior, had played a major role in the current increase in infections. Lockdowns and restrictions in Mazandaran will remain in place, he added.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Mir Karimi, a pulmonary diseases specialist and a member of the science faculty of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Science, reported that since the outbreak of coronavirus more than 1,000 children with coronavirus symptoms had visited Abuzar Hospital, a children’s hospital in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan, and between 400 and 500 of them have tested positive for Covid-19. However, he added, only a small number of children who were infected with coronavirus and were treated in the hospital have died.

In the last 24 hours, 47 more people with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in Kermanshah and 39 were discharged after recovering. Currently 176 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in the province and, with the recent death of one person with Covid-19, the death toll in the province reached 1,429.

Of the 20 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in Bushehr, five are using ventilators to breathe, reported Dr. Saeed Kashmiri, president of Bushehr University of Medical Sciences and the secretary of the province’s coronavirus taskforce. In the 24 hours spanning January 2 and January 3, 14 new patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in the province and the total number of Covid-19 hospitalizations there stood at 75. Since the coronavirus outbreak 232 people have died from Covid-19 in Bushehr.

In the last 24 hours 36 new coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Ardebil and 25 patients were discharged from hospitals. Currently the total number of hospitalizations in the province is 232; 66 of them are in ICUs.

With the hospitalization of 53 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms in Alborz in the last 24 hours, the number of hospitalizations in the province has reached 342, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, President of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. And with the death of another five patients, the coronavirus death toll in the province stood at 2,593 as of January 3.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 3, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

 

January 4:

Pollution and Black Market Vaccines: Iran Enters New Phase of Coronavirus Crisis

Air pollution in at least 10 Iranian cities remains at an what health ministry officials have described as an “unhealthy” level. Despite this, the government has opposed a lockdown of Tehran, according to Abbas Shahsavani, head of the health ministry’s Air Safety and Climate Change Workgroup. “Based on studies done around the world, when we have air pollution the number of people going to hospitals increases after two weeks,” he said. Referring specifically to studies conducted in the three metropolitan areas of Tehran, Mashhad and Tabriz, Shahsavani added that “an increase of air pollution between six and 15 percent can increase the number coronavirus infections and fatalities.”

For several days, the situation in Mazandaran province has been deteriorating. Some cities in the province have reverted to a red state of alert. The coronavirus taskforce believes the increase in Covid-19 infections is partly due to the fact that it is orange and kiwi harvesting season. As a result, smaller towns and villages have witnessed greater numbers of infections.

Some media reports say the new, more contagious variant of coronavirus may have reached the Iranian Kurdistan.

 

A “Russian Vaccine” for €1,000

Meanwhile, it emerged that a “Russian vaccine” is being offered on the black market for 1,000 euros.

The newspaper Donya-e Eghtesad reported that the vaccine can be bought from vendors in Tehran’s Nasser Khosrow Avenue, where many drug wholesalers are located. “There is a vaccine in the black market but it is not clear whether it is genuine or fake,” the report said. “Druggists on Nasser Khosrow say in 10 days they are going to import the Chinese vaccine as well.”

The report points out that Iran has 8,574 kilometers of common borders with seven countries, making it easy to bring in drugs from other countries. “Today the coronavirus vaccine is perhaps one of the most valuable commodities in the world and, as of now, vaccines from Russia, China, Britain, Germany and US have received permission for export to various countries,” it reads. "In the United Arab Emirates and Turkey the Chines vaccine and in Saudi Arabia and Qatar the American and the German vaccines have already been distributed among high-risk groups.”

The Red Crescent Society of Iran is to import one million doses of the Chinese vaccine in coming weeks and it has been announced that American philanthropists have donated 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Iran.

 

Four More Volunteers Given the Iranian Vaccine

The first three volunteers who had been injected with the Iranian coronavirus vaccine Barekat CovIran have been deemed to be healthy and, therefore, four more volunteers were vaccinated on January 4, reported Hojatollah Niki Maleki, head of public relations for the Executive Headquarters of Imam's Directive, a foundation that has been overseeing the development of the vaccine produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate known as Barekat.

For the human trial of this vaccine 56 volunteers have been selected from among many people who came forward.

 

Provinces Round-up

Unlike other Iranian provinces, the situation in Mazandaran has been deteriorating over the last week and four cities in the province are now in a red state of alert, with four other cities“on the verge” of becoming red. The coronavirus taskforce announced that one of the reasons behind the increase in infection in Mazandaran is that now is the season for harvesting oranges and kiwifruits and infections have risen more in smaller towns and villages.

According to the latest figures from Mazandaran and Babol universities of medical sciences, currently 1,220 patients with Covid-19 symptoms are hospitalized in treatment centers supervised by these two universities. In the last 24 hours 242 people with suspected coronavirus were in hospitals associated with Babol University of Medical Sciences, reported Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of the university.

Dr. Arezoo Fallahi, spokeswoman for Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, confirmed reports that a highly contagious variant of coronavirus that had first appeared in England might have reached Iranian Kurdistan. The patient is a doctor from the provincial capital of Sanandaj who had traveled to England the previous week and is currently hospitalized at Sanandaj’s Tohid Hospital. She added, however, that tests conducted on the patient were not conclusive and samples had been sent to Tehran for further analysis.

“A virus that is transmitted through breathing is not one that can be kept out by closing the borders and then somehow it gets in from somewhere,” said Alireza Raeesi, a deputy health minister and the spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce. “The only thing we can do is socially distance and avoid crowds, especially now that the mutant virus has been found in Turkey, Oman and, recently, in Pakistan. Therefore, we must completely comply with health protocols.”

As of January 4, 142 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Kurdistan, 36 of them in ICUs, reported Dr. Farzin Rezaei, president of Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences. In the 24-hour spanning January 3 and January 4, 72 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in the province and one further patient died, bringing the official death toll in Kurdistan to 1,038.

In the last 24 hours, 47 further people with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz and as of January 4, 348 people with suspected or confirmed cases were hospitalized in the province, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. With the death of another four people with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the death toll in Alborz had reached 2,597 by January 4.

In Qazvin, 44 new Covid-19 patients were identified in the last 24 hours, of whom 35 were hospitalized, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 222, reported Qazvin University of Medical Sciences. As of January 4, 17 coronavirus patients in the province are using ventilators to breathe. In the same 24 hours four more Covid-19 patients died and the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak now stands at 1,229.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 4, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

Dr. Lari reported that currently four Iranian cities are on red alert, 43 cities are in an orange state of alert and 401 are yellow

January 5: 

Iran Registers First Case of New Coronavirus Strain

Just days after officials claimed there were no cases of the new highly contagious variant of coronavirus in Iran, the first case has now been registered. The strain was first identified in the United Kingdom and was thought to be brought in by an Iranian returning to the country from the UK, said health minister Saeed Namaki. At the same time the health ministry spokeswoman Sima-Sadat Lari reported that Iran had recorded its lowest daily death toll, below 100, in nearly seven months. She confirmed that 98 people had died from Covid-19 in the 24-hour period spanning January 4 and January 5.

“Unfortunately, we found the first case of the mutated British Covid-19 from a dear compatriot who had returned from England... and who was admitted to one of our private hospitals,” Namaki told state TV. “We did not find any trace of this virus in the patient’s relatives.” When the patient arrived in Iran his test was negative, Namaki added, “but since he was very knowledgeable and vigilant from day one, he isolated himself completely.”

A day earlier, Arezoo Fallahi, a spokeswoman for Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, had reported that the patient in question was a “Kurdish doctor”, but Namaki denied this and said “this colleague of ours was tested repeatedly and more than 240 people who had been in contact with him were checked as well but, fortunately, no trace of the mutated British Covid-19 was found in any of them.”

 

Provinces Round-up

With the hospitalization of 255 new people in the last 24 hours in Mazandaran, the total number of hospitalizations in the province reached 1,272. As of January 5, 37 of these patients are being treated at intensive care units.

In Golestan in the last 24 hours, nine more people lost their lives to Covid-19. Currently 449 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the province. Of this number, 93 are in ICUs and 36 were using ventilators to breathe. Dr. Abdolreza Fazel, the president of Golestan University of Medical Sciences, said that although infections in the province had been on a downward curve, the situation remained very unstable.

The number of infections in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad is on the rise, and Dr. Parviz Yazdanpanah, president of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad University of Medical Sciences, said it was because people were not complying with health protocols. Following the death of another person in the last 24 hours, the official death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak began has now reached 409. Currently 20 Covid-19 patients are being treated at ICUs in the province.

With the hospitalization of 42 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms in the last 24 hours the total number of hospitalizations in Alborz has reached 354, of whom 106 have tested positive. With the death of one more Covid-19 patient the death toll in the province now stands at 2,599.

According to the latest figures, currently 196 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in Zanjan. Of this number six were admitted in the last 24 hours. In the same time period one more coronavirus patient died, bringing the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak to 1,103.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 5, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

Dr. Lari reported that currently four Iranian cities are on red alert, 43 cities are in an orange state of alert and 401 are yellow.

 

January 6: 

Vaccines on the Way to Iran?

For the second consecutive day, Iran’s official Covid-19 death toll was below 100. At the same time, the governor of Iran’s Central Bank announced that Iran had made a down payment to procure a coronavirus vaccine.

Governor of the Central Bank Abdolnaser Hemmati said a prepayment for 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, an initiative sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), had taken place on the first day after the new year holidays.

He described the provision of the funds to the WHO agent in Switzerland as a complicated operation because they had to get around United States sanctions on Iran and Iran's lack of access to the dollar system. The Central Bank’s International Affairs Department, two Iranian banks and three European banks contributed to the operation to finalize the prepayment, said Hemmati. In a post on Instagram, Hemmati did not elaborate on the amount Iran paid. However, he reiterated that the Central Bank had more funds ready to purchase other  Covid-19 vaccines if the Iranian health ministry authorized them for use in the country.

 

The Black Market Vaccine is “Fake”

On January 4 it was reported that vendors in Tehran’s Nasser Khosrow Avenue, where many drug wholesalers do business, are offering a “Russian vaccine” for 1,000 euros. On January 7, Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for the health ministry’s Food and Drug Administration, warned that any product with the label “coronavirus vaccine”, whether it is sold on Nasser Khosrow Avenue or on the web, is illegal and fake and could lead to serious repercussions.

Jahanpour labeled vendors who offer such products as “profiteers and dishonest opportunists” and reiterated that such fake vaccines would result in serious health complications, and possibly even death. He urged the public not to use drugs or medication that have not been imported through official channels.

 

Rouhani Boasts of “Economic Growth”

President Rouhani claimed that Iran witnessed “positive economic growth” in the first half of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20-September 20, 2020) despite the coronavirus pandemic. “Iran is one of the rare nations that has managed to set a positive economic growth despite the pandemic,” he said. “The government has paid most attention to the underprivileged classes of society over the last two and a half years while the country was under tough US sanctions,” he added, without providing any evidence to support his claim.

 

Provinces Round-up

Although since late November the number of hospitalizations In Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad dropped from 478 to 160 and the weekly death toll has declined from 33 to eight, provincial officials report that the number of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 had risen and warned that the situation might get worse over the last two months of winter.

It was also reported that three members of one family — the father, the mother and their daughter-in-law — had died from Covid-19 within 13 days. According to provincial officials, every day at least 10 children under 10 years of age with coronavirus symptoms are brought to hospitals in the province; fatalities include teenagers as well.

Eight people confirmed to have Covid-19 died in Golestan in the 24-hour period spanning January 5 and January 6, and officials from Golestan University of Medical Sciences described the situation in the province as “fragile”. Currently, 449 coronavirus patients were hospitalized across the province, 92 of them in ICUs.

In the last 24 hours, 31 more people with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in Ardebil, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 216, 64 of them in ICUs. During the same time period, 30 coronavirus patients were discharged from hospitals in Ardebil.

In Kermanshah, a further 43 people with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in the last 24 hours and 38 were discharged. Currently 174 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across the province, 53 of them in ICUs, and seven of those patients were breathing using ventilators. No new fatalities have been reported and the death toll in Kermanshah currently stands at 1,430.

In the last 24 hours, two more people with Covid-19 died in Alborz, but provincial officials say the situation in the province has improved in the last few weeks. Currently 324 people with suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus are hospitalized in Alborz, including 33 who had been admitted in the last 24 hours. The official death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak had reached 2,602 by January 6.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 6, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

Dr. Lari reported that currently four Iranian cities are on red alert, 43 cities are in an orange state of alert and 401 are yellow.

 

January 9:  

Vaccine Ban and Air Pollution Jeopardize Iran’s Fight Against Covid

Unexpected news surfaced on Saturday, January 9 that the Supreme Leader Khamenei ordered during a televised speech the ban on American and British coronavirus vaccines. The Americans and the English, he said, “are not trustworthy or reliable. I don’t know, perhaps they wish to test a vaccine on other nations to see if it works or not. And of course, I do not trust the French either.”

Following this speech, the spokesman for Iran’s Red Crescent Society announced that the importation of 150,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine that had been donated to Iran by philanthropists had been canceled.

On the same day, during a meeting of the National Coronavirus Taskforce, President Rouhani announced: ”We will not put people to the test of foreign vaccines. The Ministry of Health did not accept the foreign vaccine and did not let people to be tested by the companies, and I assure people that this has never happened and will not happen”.

Although Tehran is now in a yellow state of alert when it comes to the Covid-19  pandemic, air pollution in the city remains at an “unhealthy” level for the third straight week and the government continues to reject calls for lockdowns in the nation’s capital and other metropolitan areas to reduce air pollution. Experts believe that air pollution contributes to the spread of coronavirus because, besides other negative effects, pollutant particles can carry the virus.

 

The New “Blue” Alert Level

Meanwhile, Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, announced that a new alert level, identified by the color blue, has been added to existing alert levels of red, orange, yellow and white to identify cities after their alert level has been downgraded from yellow. He emphasized that a blue state of alert does not mean that coronavirus has been obliterated in the city.

Permits to travel between cities in yellow and blue states of alert are no longer needed, announced Hossein Ghasemi, secretary of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Security and Social Affairs Committee. He added that other restrictions remain in place and vehicles with non-local license plates are banned from entering cities in red or orange state of alert.

Since Tehran is now in a yellow state of alert, vehicles with a Tehran license plate no longer need a permit to travel to 219 yellow and 192 blue cities but they are still banned from entering into seven red cities and 30 orange ones.

 

Provinces Round-up

With the hospitalization of 218 more people with coronavirus in the last 24 hours the number of hospitalizations in Mazandaran reached 1,279. Unlike other Iranian provinces, coronavirus has been surging in Mazandaran and in the last week the number of cities on red alert in this province has increased from four to six. During the same 24 hour period, 198 people with suspected Covid-19 were discharged from hospitals run by Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences. They have been instructed remain in house quarantine until they have fully recovered.

Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that in the last three weeks the number of new coronavirus infections, hospitalizations in common wards and intensive care units and outpatients had fallen in Tehran province. According to him, since November 21 the number of Covid-19 patients in common wards had fallen by 60 percent compared to the two previous months. In the same period of time, he said, ICU hospitalizations fell by 36.5 percent and the number of outpatients by 60 percent.

Also, Zahra Sadr-Azam Nouri, chairwoman of Tehran City Council’s Health Committee, reported that the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities in the city of Tehran had fallen by 80 percent compared to the two previous months.

Qazvin province and specifically the city of Qazvin are still in a state of yellow alert, as they had been the week before.

In Bandar Abbas, capital of Hormozgan province, 17 guests who had attended a reception tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24-hour period. Fatemeh Noroozian, spokeswoman for Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, reported that the average age of people with Covid-19 in the province is 48, the average age of hospitalized coronavirus patients is 53 and the average age of Covid-19 fatalities is 63.

According to her, 78 percent of coronavirus infections have occurred in cities and 32 percent in rural areas of the province. In the last week, 142 more people with Covid-19 were hospitalized in the province, while 163 were discharged and currently about 750 people are quarantined at home.

Currently, 309 people with suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19 are hospitalized across Alborz, including 31 who have been admitted to hospitals in the last 24 hours, reported Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences.

In Kermanshah, 40 more coronavirus patients were hospitalized and 43 were discharged  in the last 24 hours after recovering. Currently 144 patients are hospitalized across the province and no new confirmed Covid-19 fatalities were reported there over the last 24 hours. As of January 9, the total coronavirus death toll in Kermanshah stands at 1,431.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 9, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

January 10:

Cuban Coronavirus Vaccine to be Tested on Iranians

“Iranian people are not laboratory mice.”

Over the past 11 months, officials of the Islamic Republic have obsessively repeated this claim to justify the non-acceptance of support from the West in battling coronavirus, up to and including the procurement of US and UK-made vaccines.

On January 10, however, it emerged that human clinical trials on Iranian subjects will in fact be run in the country by Cuban scientists, with the full consent of the Iranian government.

Mostafa Ghanei, chairman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s scientific committee, admitted: “In recent months the Islamic Republic has informed every country that it would not allow any vaccine to be tested on Iranians, unless the vaccine is made inside the country.” But he went on to explain that since Cuba has agreed to manufacture its vaccine within Iran, the Islamic Republic has accepted that this product can be tested on Iranian subjects after all.

Phase I of clinical trials for a Cuban vaccine are already complete and Phase II is currently being conducted in the Latin American country under the supervision of Iran’s Pasteur Institute. Kianoush Jahanpour, speaking on behalf of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, had said on January 9. “If Phase II is successful, then Phase III will be carried out in Iran.”

The Cuban-made vaccine, called “Soberana 01” (“Sovereign 01”), is developed by the country’s state-owned Finlay Institute. The second phase of clinical trials was due to conclude on January 11. The third phase would involve control groups and monitoring for side effects.

Iran is one of more than 180 countries that have signed up to COVAX, an initiative co-led by the World Health Organization which aims to provide equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Before the Supreme Leader Khamenei’s ban on importing American and British-made vaccines Iran had made a down payment via COVAX for more than 16 million doses. As of now, the WHO has only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for sale through COVAX, meaning the fate of this consignment is not clear.

However, Mr Ghanei appeared unfazed by the ban, going on to say on January 10 that COVAX had received the money and the Food and Drug Administration was “following up” on plans for importation. He said the inoculation of frontline medical staff and health workers would be the first priority, followed by Iran-Iraq war veterans affected by complications from chemical weapons, high-risk groups and the elderly.

Ghanei added that widespread vaccination would get under way once “the vaccine is produced”, presumably referring to the Iranian-made “CovIran-Barekat” vaccine, which is currently in Phase I of clinical trials with fewer than 60 volunteers involved.  The doses purchased through COVAX alone will only be enough to protect eight million Iranians, or around 10 percent of the population.

Two days after Khamenei’s abrupt ban on US and UK-made vaccines, Health Minister Saeed Namaki spoke in support of the Supreme Leader and, as usual, complained that US and its sanctions have been the main obstacle to buying test kits and other medication during the pandemic. “How can the leader of a country that has been the subject of this injustice believe that the US… would donate vaccines to us?” he said. “No sane mind could believe this.”

In the meantime, the fourth case of infection from the new strain of SARS-CoV-2 discovered in Britain has been confirmed in Iran.

 

Provinces Round-up

With the death of another Covid-19 patient in Alborz, the officially-recorded coronavirus death toll in the province reached 2,613 on January 10. In the past 24 hours, 33 patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz and currently 283 suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases are in hospitals across the province.

In Qazvin, west of Alborz, one confirmed Covid-19 patient died, 40 new patients tested positive and 22 of them were admitted to hospital. Currently 180 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across Qazvin and the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak now stands at 1,243.

In Zanjan, two more Covid-19 patients died and the recorded death toll in the province has now reached 1,107. Some 164 coronavirus patients are presently being treated in hospitals across the province.

In Yazd, which is in a yellow state of alert, 159 patients with coronavirus symptoms are in hospital, 56 of them in intensive care units. In the past 24 hours Yazd recorded one Covid-19 fatality.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 10, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

 

 

January 12:

COVAX Vaccines to Arrive in Iran by Spring

Iran will receive its first shipment of vaccines from COVAX, the Word Health Organization’s initiative to ensure a more equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccine across the world, before spring arrives, an Iranian official has announced. Vaccinations of priority groups will start once the shipment is received, he added.

On Monday, January 11, Mostafa Ghanei, chairman of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, reported that Iran has procured two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from COVAX and delivery could be as early as mid-February. The first group to be vaccinated will be doctors, nurses and health workers. Ghanei added that if the clinical trials of the Iranian “CovIran-Barekat” vaccine are successful, the mass production of this vaccine will start sometime in May.

Fourteen days after the first phase of human tests on the Iranian-produced vaccine began, the second phase got underway on Tuesday, January 12. Three volunteers received the vaccine: Tayebeh Mokhber, daughter of the president of the Executive Headquarters of Imam's Directive, Ali Asgari, vice president of the Executive Headquarters of Imam's Directive for Social Affairs, and Hamid Reza Khalili, CEO of Pars Oil Company.

According to Iranian officials, the vaccine Iran is producing jointly with Cuba is a few steps ahead of the Iranian vaccine.

“The vaccine jointly developed with Cuba is in phase 3 and is being tested on a large number of subjects,” said Ghanei. “In other words, this vaccine is ahead of Iran’s CovIran vaccine.” He also reported that vaccines developed by three other Iranian companies would finish animal testing by January 19 and, if successful, they will receive permits to start clinical trials on humans.

The number of daily coronavirus fatalities in Iran once again approached three digits. Fatalities in the provinces continue to rise and fall, except in Mazandaran, where the rise in infections has been alarming in recent days.

The coronavirus vaccine has dominated the news, but there are also reports about air pollution, extensive power outages and the reopening of schools.

 

“Smart” Information System for Vaccinations

“A smart system for the distribution of the vaccine has been designed that will clearly show the situation for all vulnerable individuals and the priorities broken down by each city as part of the strategy for building confidence among the people and making the distribution and vaccinations transparent,” said government spokesman Ali Rabiei. He emphasized that the order of priorities for vaccination had been predetermined based on “scientific and moral evidence” and, according to a decision by the National Coronavirus Taskforce, no vaccination will take place outside this order of priorities.

Rabiei also claimed the government is working hard to increase the number of Covid-19 tests carried out. The number of tests conducted in Iran reached 40,000 per day in autumn, whereas Rabiei had promised that it would be increased to 100,000 per day, a promise that remains unfulfilled after two months.

 

Provinces Round-up

Of the seven cities in a red state of alert in Iran, five are in Mazandaran, and with more than 1,300 Covid-19 patients in hospitals, the situation in the province continues to be alarming. In recent days more restrictions have been imposed, including a ban on traffic between cities except for vehicles with permits, which are issued on a very limited basis. Also, all tourist facilities and hotels in red and orange cities have been locked down.

In the 24-hour period spanning January 11 and January 12, 240 people with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in treatment centers under the supervision of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences and currently 1,392 people with suspected or confirmed coronavirus are hospitalized across the province.

The situation in the Tehran metropolitan area is fragile and unstable, said Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, who reported that in the last 24 hours 297 new patients were hospitalized in Tehran province, 110 of them in intensive care units. Currently, 1,892 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province, of whom 800 are being treated at ICUs.

Despite the fact that the National Coronavirus Taskforce had declared that Tehran province is in a yellow state of alert, Dr. Zali cautioned against haste in the lifting of restrictions and the reopening of offices and businesses.

According to the latest reports, currently 139 people with Covid-19 are hospitalized in Kurdistan, 32 of them in ICUs. The official coronavirus death toll in the province now stands at 1,045 but no new fatalities have been reported in the last 24 hours.

In Alborz, however, five more people with Covid-19 died in the last 24 hours, whereas just a day earlier no fatalities had been reported. The official death toll in the province now stands at 2,618. During the same time period 38 more people with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized in Alborz, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 229.

In Bushehr, 30 new coronavirus patients were hospitalized and 10 were discharged after recovery. Currently, 103 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in the province, 21 of them in ICUs. Of the latter number, 10 are breathing with the help of ventilators. In the last 24 hours one Covid-19 patient died, bringing the official death toll in the province to 843.

With the death of two more patients, the coronavirus death toll in Qazvin reached 1,249. In the last 24 hours, 68 more people with Covid-19 were identified in the province and 33 of them were hospitalized, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in Qazvin to 176. During the same 24-hour period, 23 patients were discharged after full or partial recovery.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 12, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

January 13: 

Cuban Covid-19 Vaccine has "No Side Effects", Officials Claim

Since the Supreme Leader banned the future importation of UK- and US-made Covid-19 vaccines, the Iranian government has focused instead on the prospects for domestically-manufactured products, including a would-be vaccine jointly developed with Cuba.

Dr. Alireza Biglari, head of Iran’s Pasteur Institute, said on January 13 that according to the Health Ministry, this co-produced vaccine had seen “no complications” during Phase I and Phase II of clinical trials. He repeated that Phase III will be conducted simultaneously in Iran and Cuba.

Biglari went on to say Cuba has “a very advanced vaccine-making industry” and that it had previously provided Iran with technology to produce a hepatitis B vaccine. According to him, Cuba and Iran’s Pasteur Institute began their collaboration in 2019, beginning with a joint project to develop a vaccine against a certain type of pneumonia.

No information is yet available on how phase III of the Covid-19 vaccine trial will be carried out in Iran, or how many volunteers are being sought. And although officials promise that widespread vaccination in Iran will begin “on time”, there has as yet been no qualification of what this means.

At a cabinet meeting on January 13, President Rouhani simultaneously tried to assure those present and the wider public that Iran is financially capable of procuring Covid-19 vaccines from other countries too. Iran’s Central Bank, he claimed, has the access to foreign currencies that it needs to buy from abroad and “no effort is being spared to start general vaccination according to a specific schedule.” This specific schedule was, again, not specified.

Meanwhile, health minister Saeed Namaki has reported that daily official totals of new Covid-19 infections and fatalities are again on the increase. He added that a fifth case of the more contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant first been detected in England had now been identified in Iran.

 

Provinces Round-up

Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations have been rising in Mazandaran. According to Namaki, in the past 24 hours before January 13 some 21 people died of Covid-19 in this province. In the same period, 237 people with Covid-19 symptoms were hospitalized under the supervision of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences while 27 patients who had partially recovered were released to quarantine at home, reported Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of the university.

Currently, he added, 1,198 patients suffering from Covid-19 are being cared for at its treatment centers, 42 of whom are in intensive care units. Separately, Mazandaran’s Babol University of Medical Sciences is currently treating 220 Covid-19 patients,  42 of whom are also in ICUs.

According to Saeed Namaki, tests conducted by the Health Ministry suggest the new mutated form of the virus is not behind the surge of infections in Mazandaran. Instead, he said, the arrival of seasonal citrus fruit pickers from Golestan province is thought to have exacerbated infection rates.

In the neighboring province of Gilan three cities are in an “orange” state of alert and if infections in this province continue, to rise the alert level of these cities might be elevated to red on Saturday when the National Coronavirus Taskforce convenes.  In the past 24 hours, 78 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Gilan, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 458, reported Dr. Masoud Norouzi, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences. According to this university, around 50 percent of new infections are the result of family gatherings.

Pointing out that the World Health Organization has now confirmed a direct connection between air pollution and coronavirus infections, Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said that in the current situation shutting down Tehran for a few days would be advisable – as long as people do not use the opportunity to travel. “Those who suffer from allergic respiratory diseases and asthma are adversely affected by air pollution,” he added.

With the admittance to hospital of 49 new patients with Covid-19 symptoms in Alborz, the number of hospitalizations in the province now stands at 303. In the past 24 hours two more Covid-19 patients died and the official death toll in the province rose to 2,620.

In West Azerbaijan, 363 suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital 130 in ICUs of whom 34 are on ventilators. In the past 24 hours, another 200 people in the province tested positive for coronavirus.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 13, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

January 16: 

Fears of a Fourth Covid-19 Wave Approaching Iran

 

According to the National Coronavirus Taskforce, 10 cities in the northern province of Mazandaran are in a red state of alert, signifying mounting infections in the province. The taskforce also said that travel to the south of Iran, especially to Qeshm island in the Strait of Hormuz, as well as to the scenic northern provinces, had resulted in ongoing violations of health protocols and that Iran may soon be hit with a fourth wave of infections.

More than 30,000 travelers have visited Qeshm island in recent weeks – though the exact dates of these visits are not clear. Health Minister Saeed Namaki asked Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and the National Coronavirus Taskforce to, once again, take steps to contain upcoming religious ceremonies and to prevent travel around the country.

 

Symbolic” Rallies for the Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution

Rallies later this year, to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on February 10, will be held in a “symbolic” manner, the spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce Alireza Raeesi said. “In most cities these ceremonies [processions] will be held by individuals on motorcycles and other vehicles. Nobody will take part in the ceremonies on foot, neither as spectators nor as participants,” Raeesi said. “The president’s speech will be broadcast on radio and TV as well.” He warned that a new wave of coronavirus infections would lead to the deaths of between 8,000 and 10,000 more people.

Raeesi also emphasized that the reopening of schools is not mandatory. “In areas in a yellow or blue state of alert, families have the choice of sending students to school or not,” he said. “Classes must be less than 10 students and schools must have no more than 50 pupils in total.” The question of teachers and other staff physically attending schools is decided by the education department of each region, he added.

No Religious Ceremonies Allowed in Tehran

Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, the governor of Tehran province, announced that, since the National Coronavirus Taskforce has banned all gatherings in the province, religious ceremonies during Fatimiyya are banned as well. Fatimiyya is the occasion, over a series of days, when Muslims and especially Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Fatimiyya al-Zahra, the youngest daughter of Prophet Mohammad, in 632 AD.

 

Third Iranian Vaccine Enters Clinical Trial

The first rounds of vaccination in Iran will take place this winter, President Hassan Rouhani said, expressing the hope that medical staff will be vaccinated before the end of the current Iranian calendar year on March 20. According to Rouhani, vaccines procured from COVAX – a World Health Organization initiative to provide countries around the world with a more equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines – will also be delivered on March 20 or soon afterwards.

Rouhani also said that Iran had purchased other vaccines from foreign firms.

Earlier, after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, banned imports of American and British vaccines, it was announced that the Islamic Republic planned to buy vaccines from China, Russia or India. And the vaccine that is being jointly developed with Cuba, Rouhani said, “is near completion and we will have it by spring.” He called this vaccine “Pasteur,” most likely because Iran’s Pasteur Institute is overseeing the third phase of its clinical human trials.

Rouhani also reported that two other Iranian vaccines have received permits for clinical trials and that “they would become available to people next summer.”

Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for Iran's Food and Drug Administration, said that the clinical trial of the third domestically-developed Covid-19 vaccine had been launched at Razi Serum and Vaccine Institute. “The first and second phase clinical trials of the third Iran-made coronavirus vaccine … have started with the approval of the Medical Ethics Committee,” Jahanpour tweeted on January 16.

 

Provinces Round-up

In Alborz, 20 new patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of hospitalized, suspected or confirmed cases in the province to 295. And, with the death of another five Covid-19 patients, the death toll in Alborz since the epidemic started is now 2,632 people.

Hossein Kalantari, governor of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, warned that compliance with health protocols among certain businesses and people has dropped and “if Boyer-Ahmad returns to an orange state of alert, then will would become very difficult and we will have to again lockdown businesses.” He also complained that the number of coronavirus tests conducted in the province was too low.

In Kurdistan, with the hospitalization of 29 new patients, the total number of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the province reached 119, 60 of them in the provincial capital of Sanandaj. In the past 24 hours no coronavirus fatality was reported in the province. The official death toll in Kurdistan since the coronavirus outbreak remains at 1,045 people.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 16, health ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

 

Dr. Lari reported that currently 10 Iranian cities are on red alert, 23 cities are in an orange state of alert, 163 are yellow and 252 are blue.

 

January 17: 

Religious Ceremonies Go Ahead Despite Coronavirus Ban

 

January 17 was Fatimiyya, a series of days when Muslims and especially Shias mourn the martyrdom of Fatimiyya al-Zahra, the youngest daughter of Prophet Mohammad, in 632 AD. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei did not participate in any public ceremonies. But videos and pictures from the streets of a number of cities show processions where people disregarded social distancing and other public health protocols.

On January 17, a religious holiday, the number of people traveling to religious towns and to scenic northern provinces that are popular vacation destinations increased. Officials in these provinces had banned travel to their cities from other parts of Iran. But reports indicated that a large number of cars with license plates from other provinces have been seen on roads leading to northern provinces.

The situation in three northern provinces, where 33 cities are in red or orange state of alert, continues to cause alarm. And there have been reports that the number infections in some other provinces, including Kermanshah and Khuzestan, are on the rise.

 

Religious Mourners Defy Ban on Public Ceremonies

On January 16, Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, governor of Tehran province, announced that any gatherings for Fatimiyya are banned in the province; a day later, at least three large ceremonies were held in Tehran. Pictures of these ceremonies, where speakers and religious eulogists were present, show that the gatherings had been organized beforehand. These ceremonies started at 9:30am and lasted for several hours.

Besides Tehran, such ceremonies were held in other places as well, including in the holy cities of Qom and Mashhad. A day earlier Mehdi Gholian, vice president of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, had announced that even though Mashhad is now in a blue, i.e. least dangerous, state of alert, it did not mean that the ban on gatherings has been lifted. “People should know that when they go to such gatherings out of their own free will they are assisting the coronavirus,” he warned.

Experts have no doubt that such ceremonies and gatherings are “super-spreader” events and that we shall see the results soon – with a rise in infections.

 

Health Official: Any Vaccine that Raises General Immunity is Good

Since Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned imports of American and British coronavirus vaccines to Iran, the question of what vaccine options remain for the country has been the subject of much discussion.

Dr. Mine Mohraz, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Science Committee, said that any approved coronavirus vaccine from any country, that is effective, can be used for vaccination. She added that the existing vaccines are not especially different from each other and that they can be used if they are more than 70 percent effective because they help to “increase the general immunity level” of the population.

Referring to the Iranian vaccine, CovIran-Barekat, that is in the process of clinical trials on human beings, Dr. Mohraz said that, “as of now, the number of tests conducted is not enough for us to determine how effective it is going to be, because only 14 people have been injected with the vaccine, whereas 56 people must be tested.” She warned that, according to epidemiologists around the world, a “difficult winter” is ahead and we must be careful because other coronavirus surges will likely follow.

 

Provinces Round-up

Mazandaran continued to see a high rate of infections – bucking the trends that other provinces are largely following. All 10 cities on red alert are located in Mazandaran and the number of hospitalizations has reached 1,435. Provincial health officials believe that the situation has deteriorated because people are not taking coronavirus seriously and because they participate in gatherings that spread the virus.

In the past 24 hours, 152 patients with Covid-19 were hospitalized in treatment centers under the supervision of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, and 109 patients were released, reported Dr. Abbas Mousavi, president of the university. During the same period, 27 new patients were admitted to hospitals run by Babol University of Medical Sciences, also in Mazandaran, and 11 were released, announced Dr. Farzad Jalali, Babol university’s president.

In Alborz, three other Covid-19 patients died in the past 24 hours, bringing the official total death toll in the province to 2,635 people. With the hospitalization of 37 new patients suffering from coronavirus symptoms, the number of hospitalized Covid-19 cases in the province reached 288 people.

In Kurdistan, currently 119 patience with Covid-19 are hospitalized and, with one coronavirus fatality in the past 24 hours, the official death toll for the province now stands at 1,046 people.

Mazandaran may be in a worse situation than other provinces – but other regions are also warning that cases are increasing. Reza Nejati, a spokesman for Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that in the past three days the number of people with Covid-19 symptoms who had visited hospitals and treatment centers in the province has increased. “If this trend continues,” he said, “there can be no doubt that we will have another coronavirus peak.” His words were confirmed by Valiollah Hayati, deputy governor of Khuzestan for security affairs, who said that “the number of visits to hospitals is increasing and evidence shows that the situation is fragile.”

Although in recent weeks the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations and fatalities in Kermanshah had fallen, the increase in the number of people who test positive for coronavirus is “an alarm bell the signals a fourth wave in the province,” said Houshang Bazvand, governor of Kermanshah. He warned that people must not assume that the situation has returned to normal.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 17, the Health Ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

Dr. Lari reported that currently 10 Iranian cities are on red alert, 23 cities are in an orange state of alert, 163 are yellow and 252 are blue. All 10 cities on red alert are located in Mazandaran province.

 

January 18: 

Holiday Travelers and Religious Ceremonies Spreading the Virus — Again

Iranian health officials have continued to warn against travel during the holidays, but religious ceremonies to mark Fatimiyya, the days when Muslims and especially Shias mourn the martyrdom of Fatimiyya al-Zahra, the youngest daughter of Prophet Mohammad, have continued despite the ban on gatherings.

Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said that travel is a very important factor in spreading coronavirus but he claimed that in recent months religious ceremonies and Friday prayers have been held in compliance with health protocols. Without citing any specifics he did concede that “it is possible” that in certain cases compliance has not been perfect.

Raeesi said that the increase in the number of travelers to Qeshm, an island in the Strait of Hormuz, is cause for alarm and could be contributing to an increase in the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities. Pictures and videos posted online show a rush of travelers from the wintery areas of Iran to Qeshm and Hormuz islands, attracted by their balmy weather at this time of the year.

The holiday attracted travelers to scenic northern provinces as well. Dr. Abtin Heydarzadeh, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences, pleaded with visitors to avoid gatherings or traveling within the province. He said that in the past 24 hours 75 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Gilan, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 440, of whom 98 are being treated in intensive care units.

Heydarzadeh added that although the volume of hospitalizations was better than a month earlier, after each wave of travelers “we have an increase in the number of hospitalizations in five to 14 days.”

There was speculation that an increase in the number of infections in the neighboring northern province of Mazandaran was possibly due to the more contagious strain of coronavirus that was first detected in the UK, but health officials denied this. Simin Babaei, spokesman for Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, said that no instance of this virus variant had been detected in the province.

Unlike other Iranian provinces that saw various degrees of decline in Covid-19 infections and fatalities after extended restrictions and lockdowns, the number of infections in Mazandaran has been rising in recent weeks and the 10 cities on red alert are all located in this province. In the past 24 hours 266 new coronavirus patients were hospitalized across Mazandaran, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 1,335.

 

A Warning to the People of Tehran

Saeed Khal, CEO of Behesht Zahra Cemetery Organization in Tehran, said the number of Covid-19 fatalities in the capital has fallen but warned residents that negligence in observing health protocols would return the city to the crisis of a couple of months ago.

Since the Iranian Health Ministry started reporting coronavirus statistics, the number of fatalities announced by Behesht Zahra Cemetery has usually exceeded those published by the Health Ministry. The discrepancy is due to the fact that the Health Ministry only includes the deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid-19, while the cemetery relies on causes registered on death certificates.

In the meantime, Tehran Municipality reported that, as of now, approximately 2,400 municipal workers have been infected with coronavirus. However, since there are many companies that work as contractors with the municipality, no accurate data on the number of infections and fatalities among municipal workers is available.

 

Concerning Situation in Other Provinces

In the past 24 hours 54 more people tested positive for Covid-19 in Yazd, of whom 39 were hospitalized, according to Dr. Ebrahim Soleimani, spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences, who said that this was the highest number in almost a month. Currently 155 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the province, 46 of them in intensive care units. In the same 24 hours one Covid-19 patient died in Yazd.

With the death of another coronavirus patient in Kermanshah the official Covid-10 death toll in the province reached 1,439 and 31 more patients were hospitalized, bringing the total to 155. Of the 432 tests conducted in the province in the past 24 hours 69 were positive.

In the past 24 hours one more coronavirus patient died in Alborz and the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak began reached 2,636, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences, who also said that, with the hospitalization of 37 new patients with coronavirus symptoms, there are now 299 suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients in treatment centers across the province.

With the death of five more confirmed coronavirus cases in Qazvin, the death toll in the province reached 1,257. Currently 179 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in Qazvin, of whom 32 were added in the past 24 hours from among 61 who tested positive for Covid-19.

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 18, health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:

January 19: 

Qom Clerics Call for Covid Taskforce Leader to be Fired

 

 

Clerics in Qom have called for the spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce to be dismissed and put on trial for saying recent religious gatherings helped spread coronavirus.

Qom Seminary and Friday Prayers Headquarters objected to comments made by Alireza Raeesi at a press conference, during which he criticized authorities’ decision to allow ceremonies to go ahead, and said it had led to further cases of the virus.

The Friday Imam’s Policy Council public relations office called for Raeesi's resignation and insisted that Friday prayers in Qom had been held in full compliance with health protocols. The statement it released further claimed that in his sermon before the prayers, the Friday Imam had praised health officials and had reminded the congregation that they must follow health guidelines.

Another religious organization, the Seminary Headquarters of the Islamic Revolution, went even further. It appealed to health minister Saeed Namaki, calling for not only for the dismissal of Raeesi but also for him to be put on trial because his “overblown” statements led to what it described as a “new wave of Qom-phobia”.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, there has been a consistent tug of war between religious leaders and health officials over religious ceremonies and gatherings — events that seemed to pose an obvious potential breeding ground for the virus.

The most recent example was Fatimiyya, the days when Muslims, Shias in particular, mourn the martyrdom of Fatimiyya al-Zahra, the youngest daughter of the Prophet Mohammad in 632 AD, even though such gatherings were specifically banned. Videos and photographs taken on the streets of a number of Iranian cities revealed that processions took place regardless, during which many participants disregarded social distancing and other health protocols.

 

“Traditional” Remedies Approved to Treat Coronavirus

Another tug of war that has been raging since the pandemic started has been the one over “traditional” medicines used to treat coronavirus, mostly championed by various clergymen and individuals with dubious medical credentials. On January 19, Dr. Nafiseh Hossein-Yekta, director general of the health ministry’s Iranian and Supplementary Medicine department, announced that the ministry had received more than 90 recommendations that it study “traditional and herbal remedies” to treat coronavirus. As of January 19, approximately 45 such studies had been carried out. According to her, some of the remedies had received permits from Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, labeled as “drugs that help in the treatment of coronavirus”. The rest are under review.

 

The Highly Contagious Coronavirus Strain “Mostly in Tehran”

Recently it was announced that at least five cases of the highly-contagious coronavirus strain first detected in England had been identified in Tehran. On January 19, without giving any specifics, Shokrollah Hossein-Beigi, deputy provincial governor for political and social affairs, announced that, although other cases of this coronavirus variant had been found in other parts of Iran, the majority of the cases have been identified in Tehran. He said they would attempt to quarantine people who had been in close contact with these individuals.

Reporting that in recent days the number of coronavirus outpatients had grown by two percent, Hossein-Beigi said that a greater percentage of Covid-19 fatalities happen among young people. A day earlier, on January 18, Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, had said that in the last two weeks the number of hospitalizations of patients in the age group between five and 17 had increased. “Although, in absolute terms, the rate of fatalities among those younger than 10 is low, we have witnessed an increase in deaths among individuals 10 years old and younger,” said Dr. Zali.

In the last 24 hours the number of hospitalizations in Tehran province reached 1,915; out of this number, about 760 people are being treated at ICUs.

At least 33 cities in Tehran province are on red or orange alert. Although some neighboring countries have been vaccinating their citizens for a few weeks, it is still not clear when Iran will start coronavirus vaccinations.

 

Provinces Round-up

Most Iranian cities are now in a relatively stable situation in terms of Covid-19 infections and fatalities but a number of provinces, including the northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, are in a situation that health officials describe as “fragile,” and the provinces of Tehran, Khuzestan and Kermanshah are unstable, although their Covid-19 numbers have yet to reach an alarming level.

The number hospitalizations in Mazandaran has reached 1,346 and restrictions and lockdowns in the province still continue although, according to some reports, the restrictions are not seriously enforced. “Inter-city traffic restrictions were enacted but, for whatever reason, the responsible officials were not able to reduce the volume of travelers to northern provinces,” Fars News Agency reported.

Earlier, various officials had said that a large number of Covid-19 cases in the province had been found in rural areas. They stated that the main reason behind this phenomenon was the arrival of the harvesting season for kiwi and citrus fruits and that seasonal workers add to the density of population in these areas.

The number of coronavirus infections and fatalities in Khuzestan has been increasing in recent days, said Dr. Mohammad Alavi, vice president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences. He warned that if this trend continues, the province would witness another peak of the pandemic, even though currently almost all cities in the province are in a blue, the least dangerous, state of alert. This applied to every city in the province except Abadan, which is on yellow alert.

According to Dr. Alavi, during the previous week the number of Covid-19 cases increased by 64 percent compared to a week earlier. The number of hospitalizations, he said, increased by 31 percent, and the number of fatalities by seven percent. He warned that, with the spread of more contagious strains of coronavirus in the world, another surge of the epidemic would be more deadly and the only way to prevent this surge is to follow health protocols because vaccines have yet to go into mass production.

In the 24-hour period spanning January 18 and January 19, 100 new Covid-19 cases were identified in Zanjan and seven people were hospitalized. Currently 147 people with coronavirus are hospitalized across the province and, with the death of another Covid-19 patient, the official death toll in the province reached 1,119.

In Kermanshah, 49 new patients with coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized in the last 24 hours, 32 patients were released and, with the death of one Covid-19 patient, the death toll in the province now stands at 1,440. Currently, 169 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in Kermanshah and, after a few weeks of decline, the number of visits to the hospitals by people suffering from coronavirus symptoms has increased again.

In Kurdistan, currently 105 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, more than half of them in the provincial capital of Sanandaj, reported Dr. Farzin Rezaei, president of Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, who added that 31 of these patients are being treated at intensive care units. He said that, in the last 24 hours, there have been no confirmed Covid-19 fatalities and the death toll for the province remains at 1,046.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for January 19, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

 

 

Dr. Lari reported that currently 10 Iranian cities are on red alert, 23 cities are in an orange state of alert, 163 are yellow and 252 are blue. All 10 cities on red alert are located in Mazandaran province.

 

This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology

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