While many countries are facing the dreaded “second wave” of coronavirus cases, and there are still places that have not passed the first, Iran is already counting the deaths of a third wave.
And in what was once one of the countries in the Middle East most affected by the pandemic, this “third wave” is the deadliest of them.
Iran broke its record for daily midweek infections again with 4,830 new cases of covid-19 on Wednesday (14/10), according to records from Johns Hopkins University (United States).
But the Persian nation has been breaking records since September 22, when it exceeded the 3,574 daily cases recorded in early June, at the height of its “second wave”.
“Although the second wave of coronavirus has been successfully contained, the third wave is emerging because health protocols were ignored,” warned Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki on the same day, according to news from the official Iran Press agency.
Less than two weeks later, on October 5, Iran had already equaled its daily death record, similar to that of July.
And the 279 deaths recorded on Wednesday are also the highest daily number in a country that, according to official data, already has more than half a million infections and almost 30,000 deaths from the pandemic.
The actual number, however, is much higher: last August, the BBC’s Persian service received leaked government records showing that by July 20, almost 42,000 people had died of symptoms of covid-19, but the Ministry of Health Health only reported 14,405 deceased.
The number of people identified as infected in these documents was also almost double that of the ministry.
And Iran’s deputy health minister, Iraj Haririchi, finally acknowledged that the actual death toll is “significantly” higher than official figures.
According to the Persian BBC, Haririchi explained that official statistics are based on the number of deaths with a positive PCR test, but estimated that, depending on the province, the actual number of coronavirus victims is between 1.5 and 2.2 times greater than the one launched by these records.
The deputy minister also warned that both health professionals and medical supplies are on the verge of exhaustion as the situation in Tehran and other regions of the country worsens.
At the moment, 27 of the country’s 31 provinces have already been designated by the Iranian authorities as “red” zones due to the rapid increase in infections.
And the situation in the capital, Tehran, and its suburbs, has been described as especially “critical”.
Doctor Alireza Zali, who heads operations against the coronavirus in Tehran province, warned on Wednesday that the city is experiencing “the most difficult days of the third wave of the disease”.
“If no serious intervention is made, this pace will not slow down and current conditions can keep everything at that level,” added Zali, according to BBC Persian.
To try to limit the spread of the virus, the use of masks in the capital has been mandatory since last Saturday, with the government announcing fines of US $ 6.60 (R $ 37) for those who leave without using.
And on Wednesday, all trips to or from Tehran and four other major Iranian cities were also banned until noon on Sunday.
The move was ordered a day after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, explicitly called for a ban on “certain activities and travel”.
“Coronavirus regulations must be sovereign and mandatory. I have long told the esteemed president and the authorities that they must be complied with,” said Khamenei on his Twitter account.
President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, had already declared last week that anyone who hides a covid-19 infection and does not remain in quarantine for 14 days should face “the greatest punishment” possible.
And the president also warned that government officials who repeatedly violate regulations could be suspended for one year. Offending companies may be closed.
The new measures are a reflection of the official position, which attributes the resurgence of the virus to non-compliance with rules such as the use of masks and social distance.
Although Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki insisted this week that maintaining “illegal sanctions” (in reference to American economic sanctions imposed on Iran) during a pandemic is tantamount to genocide, he also ensured that Iran has been able to meet its needs. needs for medicines and protective equipment, and even export to other countries.
In an impoverished country, drained by years of sanctions, however, confidence in the authorities’ ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic is waning.
And even the head of the Iranian Medical Association, who is appointed by the government, has been critical, accusing the authorities charged with dealing with the crisis of having ignored warnings from experts.
“Some decisions were not made by experts, such as the reopening of schools or the announcement of protocols that people were not obliged to follow,” said Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
But for Mohammad Talebpour, director of Sina hospital, the oldest in Tehran, if the Iranians do not act together the consequences could be even more disastrous.
Talebpour told The Guardian that in this case, and if the disease persists for another 18 months, the death toll could reach 300,000.
More than a wave, this would be a real tsunami for Iran.
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