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With Record COVID Deaths In Iran, No One Seems To Be In Charge

As Iran on Sunday announced the highest number of Covid-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, a representative of nurses said, “The health ministry and the health care system have collapsed” and the government has stopped dealing with the pandemic.

The ministry on Monday announced 542 deaths for the last 24-hour period, which is the highest figure since Iran became the second country after China to experience the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020. The number of new cases also rose to nearly 40,000 on Sunday.

Another health official announced that 40,000 Covid patients are hospitalized and another 20,000 receive outpatient treatment every day. This, according to the nurses’ representative, is three times the capacity of all hospitals in the country for Covid patients. He also raised the alarm about lack of nursing staff as health care workers have been overworked and underpaid. Media have reported a wave of emigration by health care workers.

Iran has been swamped by the Delta variant of the virus since early July, with low vaccination rates and virtually no preventive measures. The outgoing government after the June 18 presidential vote has not mounted an effective counterattack and very little is heard from the new president Ebrahim Raisi.

The Islamic Republic authorities failed to secure enough vaccines for the 85 million population. So far just over 10 million doses have been administered, while many other regional countries have inoculated a significant portion of their population. In January, the anti-Western leader of the country, Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of American and British vaccines, implying that they could be dangerous.

For months officials have promised the developments of effective local vaccines, but so far not much has come out of the effort. While one vaccine is said to have reached production stage, no reputable authority has approved it as safe and effective.

Many reports and eyewitness accounts say that health ministry officials and some doctors are making large amounts of money by selling medications outside pharmacies for hefty profits. Remdesivir injections are sold for more than $50, when ordinary people make $150-200 a month.

Masoud Younesian, an epidemiologist told ISNA news website that figures announced by the government are an underestimation of real numbers. He explained that fewer tests are being administered and reported deaths are only cases that patients have received a test and were confirmed to be Covid positive.

So far, Iran has registered nearly 4.2 million cases and 94,000 deaths, but almost from the beginning of the pandemic health experts, the media and local officials have said the health ministry’s number do not reflect the reality. Some estimates have put the real number of deaths 2.5 times higher.

The health ministry announced Sunday that 336 cities and towns out of around 430 are listed as ‘red’, the highest infection rate according to official classification.

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