Iran Imposes New Restrictions As COVID-19 Deaths Surpass 30,000 | Middle East

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Tehran, Iran – “The second time I was confronted with the virus, one night, I suffered so much that I said my prayers before falling asleep because I felt like I couldn’t see another morning”, says Sadaf Samimi, resident of Tehran.The 29-year-old journalist told Al Jazeera that she first tested positive for COVID-19 in July at her workplace and has been working from home ever since.

But in early September, she fell ill a second time with the coronavirus after meeting two of her close friends, who had gone into isolation at home. A friend of hers had been shopping in a large market, where they might have contracted the virus.

Samimi said she experienced shortness of breath and symptoms of a strong cold the first time she was infected, but passing the second time was a much more painful experience, marked by severe body aches and pain. cracking head, among other symptoms.

“I now use three face masks and three [pairs of] gloves every time I go out, ”she said.

“I am so irritated and angry with people who go out unnecessarily and when I see friends posting on trips on social media. I think they and their families have been fortunate not to be infected, so they don’t know what they’re doing.

Samimi said she thinks a lot of people are too relaxed given the gravity of the situation.

The authorities agree.

According to health officials, more than four in five Iranians adhered to health protocols in March, weeks after the start of the pandemic, but that figure has now fallen to 40%.

Authorities say reopening schools and holding public ceremonies to observe religious occasions had no impact on the number of cases.

Iran passed 30,000 official COVID-19 victims on Saturday as health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari announced that 253 more people had lost their lives in the past 24 hours.

Saturday also saw 4,103 additional new infections, bringing the country’s total to 526,490.

The highest number of single-day infections was recorded with 4,830 cases on Wednesday, while the worst single-day death toll of 279 was also reported.

The majority of Iran’s 32 provinces, including Tehran, are still classified as red on a color scale indicating the severity of outbreaks.

New restrictions for Tehran

In response to the alarming increase in the number of infections, deaths and hospitalizations, authorities have introduced new restrictions for Tehran, which bears the bulk of COVID-19 cases in the country facing the worst outbreak in the world. Middle East.

Last week, a city-wide mandatory mask rule was implemented and President Hassan Rouhani announced fines for people and businesses who violate the rules.

He said that those who break the mask rule would face a fine of 500,000 rials ($ 1.6), while the highest fine for individuals was set at 2 million rials (6, $ 6) for those who test positive for COVID-19 and knowingly endanger others by not quarantining.

The companies have also been ordered to refuse to offer services to people without a mask and could face up to 10 million rials ($ 33) in penalties and, ultimately, closures.

It took weeks for the sanctions to be finalized, and police officials responsible for imposing the sanctions say no fines have yet been imposed.

At the request of the health ministry, officials have also put in place three-day travel restrictions on five major cities that expire at the end of Saturday.

Under the travel restrictions, which do not apply to travel by train or plane, only persons whose license plates are registered in Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad, Isfahan and Urmia, or can prove that they are live in these cities, are allowed to travel to and from there.

The move came in response to a wave of travel expected during the three-day period, which coincided with national religious holidays.

On Saturday, the governor of Tehran announced that the city’s partial closure – which has resulted in the closure over the past two weeks of cafes, universities, cinemas and sports venues, among others – will remain in place until At least October 23.

But authorities have not been able to impose more comprehensive lockdowns as the economy is still under immense pressure from sanctions imposed by the United States.

Sanctions came relentlessly following the unilateral withdrawal of US President Donald Trump from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Samimi, who has lost several of her extended family and family friends since the start of the pandemic, says that after going through the COVID-19 ordeal twice, she strongly supports any restrictions that could help save lives. lives.

“I am not an expert in economics and I don’t know what the bottom line will be for people and businesses, but I think human lives are more important than the economy,” she said.

“I think a damaged economy can recover, but the life that escapes a body will never return.”

But in an economy marked by high inflation and unemployment, many do not have the opportunity to work from home or lose their limited income.

“I follow all of the protocols as best I can, but a hungry stomach doesn’t care about these things,” said Shahrokh, 50, a father of two who works as a driver in an online care center app. Jazeera.

“I stayed at home for a few weeks when the pandemic started, but have been working since. It’s fate; if I am supposed to die, I die, ”said Shahrokh, who has diabetes, a condition that makes him much more vulnerable if he contracts the virus.

‘Health workers are tired’

Meanwhile, health workers across Iran, particularly in Tehran, are under increasing pressure.

“I’m not the most experienced person, but taking care of COVID patients has been one of the strangest and saddest experiences I’ve ever had,” said Mahsa, 24, medical intern at last year who spent months working at hospitals affiliated with Azad University in Tehran during the pandemic.

“What struck me the most was the amount of anxiety, frustration and worry among the patients and their families,” she told Al Jazeera.

Mahsa said it was particularly frustrating for her and her colleagues not to be able to console patients; in part because so much remains unknown about the virus, and because of restrictions caused by the need to observe physical distance and wear so much protective gear.

Sometimes, she said, hospital staff couldn’t even keep patients in the emergency room for a few minutes to give them an oxygen supply before sending them to another hospital.

Images broadcast by public television from hospitals in the capital in recent days have also shown that many do not have empty beds, even in emergency rooms, and have no choice but to leave patients in waiting or refusing them.

Last week, the health ministry announced that hospitals across the country were to refuse to admit all non-emergency patients.

Additionally, many hospitals are facing drug shortages, particularly treatments that have shown promise in helping patients with COVID-19.

This has forced distraught family members to scramble for drugs, sometimes on black markets, often at astronomical prices many cannot afford.

Last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered all military hospitals to accept coronavirus patients, while the Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Hossein Salami pledged ” all the IRGC’s medical and support capacity ”to help fight the virus.

According to Mahsa, “What is most evident among health workers at the moment is fatigue and exhaustion from overflowing patients, and the requirement to wear protective equipment and follow strict protocols. at all times, even during brief periods of rest, as the rest areas are shared too.

The head of Iran’s Medical Council got the same message last week, saying “health workers are tired” at a press conference.

“Curing COVID mainly in intensive care units is not feasible,” Mohammadreza Zafarghandi said.

“We have to think about preventing infections.”



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