Iranian Health Minister calls for military-imposed containment measures

Iranian Health Minister calls for military-imposed containment measures

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s Minister of Health has called for two weeks of closures imposed by armed forces and law enforcement to curb the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases across the country.
Saeed Namaki, who will likely be replaced after Ebrahim Raisi is inaugurated as the next president on Thursday, requested it in a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei which was also widely published by Iranian media on Sunday.

“The pressure is so great that I fear that even this plan will not be enough, unless we reduce the exponential burden of diseases through rapid preventive measures and by strengthening adherence to health protocols,” he said. writing.

The minister said that the fifth wave of coronavirus infections, this time dominated by the virulent variant Delta, could become even more “catastrophic” and “irreversible” if nothing is done because even if the country does not run out of beds of hospitals, it will run on workers.

“Even if they are vaccinated, my colleagues all get sick from long periods of sleeplessness and stress,” he said, also warning that the country’s health system could collapse.

Heads of 65 universities and medical schools across the country also called for a lockdown in a letter to outgoing President Hassan Rouhani last week.

More than 3.9 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Iran since February 2020 and more than 91,000 people have lost their lives in what has long been the deadliest pandemic in the Middle East.

The health ministry said an additional 366 Iranians died on Sunday as its figures show deaths from the virus rose 38% from the previous week.

The more than 32,500 newly discovered cases that were announced on Sunday were among the highest in the world and also showed a 32% increase from the previous week.

Nurse cares for COVID-19 patient in Tehran hospital [Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters]

Loose interlocks

Iran has introduced numerous lockdowns and temporary closures across the country since the start of the pandemic, but most have been loosely enforced.

The government placed the capital Tehran and the neighboring town of Alborz under full lockdown for six days at the end of July, but this was deemed for the most part unnecessary as hardly any businesses closed and travel restrictions were flouted in a context of weak application of protocols.

The situation has worsened considerably since then, but health officials have warned that the fifth wave of infections has not yet peaked.

Alireza Raisi, spokesperson for the national anti-coronavirus task force, said on Saturday that 29 of Iran’s 31 provinces were now plagued by the Delta variant and hospital beds were filling up quickly.

Hundreds of cities across the country are now rated “red” on a color scale indicating the severity of outbreaks.

Task Force spokesperson Raisi also said compliance with health protocols requiring the use of face masks and respect for physical distancing fell below 40% across the country as he was over 70% two months ago.

Along with other difficulties, implementing a two-week forced lockdown across the country will certainly prove difficult for Iranian authorities as people and businesses face immense economic pressure from US sanctions and decades of mismanagement.

In an economy marked by over 40% inflation and high unemployment, many have not been able to go out of business.

But the ultimate demand for a strict lockdown also goes against previous rhetoric from the Minister of Health.

Namaki, who has often praised the Supreme Leader for his guidance during the pandemic, last week reiterated his claim that “the world today is in awe of how we have managed to contain the disease with God’s help. and to produce drugs, equipment and vaccines ”.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei receives second dose of COV vaccine Iran Barekat, developed by state-affiliated conglomerate [Official Khamenei Website/Handout via Reuters]

Vaccine deployment is accelerating

Iran’s vaccine rollout has accelerated in the past two weeks, with several million more doses imported after months of delay that officials say were due to US sanctions and missed deadlines by other countries .

So far, vaccines have been imported from China, Russia, India, Cuba and COVAX, the global immunization effort.

But still, according to the Ministry of Health, only about 10 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine in a country of more than 83 million people.

People over the age of 55 can currently register on the Ministry of Health website to get vaccinated.

Authorities say more than half a million doses of COVIran Barekat, the country’s first locally developed vaccine, have also been administered across the country so far.

Local vaccines are expected to be rolled out in greater numbers over the coming months to fill gaps left by weak imports.

Iran has several other vaccine candidates in the pipeline, including a vaccine developed by an organization under the Ministry of Defense, one under the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and one developed by the private sector.

The Barekat vaccine, two doses of which were administered to Khamenei, was developed by a powerful organization headed by the Supreme Leader.


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