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Iran Health Workers Battle Covid Surge, Tehran Hospitals Run Out of Beds

As various provinces in Iran report a large increase in Covid19 cases and deaths, a health official told local media on Wednesday [September 30] that hospitals in the capital have run out of beds for patients.

Masoud Mardani, a member of Tehran’s coronavirus task force scientific committee, warned that if new restrictions and regulations were not urgently introduced, Tehran would witness “hospital corridors being filled up with patients suffering from Covid19.”

After its first cases in mid-February, Iran became the world’s second coronavirus hub following China, due in part to the government’s refusal to quarantine cities and ban religious gatherings. A second wave in mid-July followed the lifting of restrictions in early April, while the current third wave was recently attributed by Deputy Health Minister Ali-Akbar Haghdoust to late-summer trips and ceremonies marking the mourning month of Muharram.

The rate of infections has soared in recent weeks, even before the fall season of influenza begins. In the northwestern city of Tabriz, the general manager of cemeteries announced September 29 that the majority of deaths in the city now resulted from the coronavirus. The deputy director of the city’s medical university also said that while the region had always been in a coronavirus ‘red zone,’ the situation was deteriorating further with daily hospitalizations reaching 1,100.

Although the central government has banned local officials from announcing death numbers, a spokesman for Kermanshah’s medical university announced Wednesday that the number of deaths in the city had reached 616 since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to national numbers issued by central government, Iran has had more than 450,000 cases and 26,000 deaths, the highest fatality figures in the Middle East. But many lawmakers and officials have challenged these figures, saying that real numbers for both cases and deaths are far higher.

In recent days, multiple local and medical officials have expressed alarm and have urged the government to implement new social distancing restrictions and close schools and businesses. But President Hassan Rouhani’s government is reluctant to reduce economic activity in the midst of a three-year recession resulting from draconian United States sanctions imposed in pursuit of a renegotiation of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

Fereydun Rahmani, a provincial official in central Iran, said his region was experiencing the highest rate of new infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

The dean of the Lorestan University of Medical Science, Reza Nikbakht said this week that the situation was “worsening.” He cited positive results in 300-350 in 750 tests, way above a positivity rate considered favorable internationally. The World Health Organization recommended in May that the rate of positive tests should remain below 5 percent for at least two weeks before governments considered easing restrictions.

While debate continues about how vulnerable young people might be to the virus, Iraj Harirchi, deputy health minister has said that since the beginning of the pandemic, 10,000 school children have been infected and 200 have died.


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