People queue in line to receive protection packages for COVID-19 disease in Tehran, March 12, 2020. (AFP)

By Pouyan Khoshhal

November 24, 2020

A member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce has described the news that coronavirus drugs are being sold on the black market as a “tragedy.”

On November 23, Dr. Minoo Moharez, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, expressed outrage that several types of medication used to treat Covid-19 patients are being sold at exorbitant prices at Tehran’s Nasser Khosrow Avenue, which is home to many wholesale pharmacies. “Some people who have been interviewed by the media cite the names of various drugs and, as a result, Nasser Khosrow and the black market for these drugs have been mobbed,” she said. For instance, she added, three doses of a medication that used to cost three million tomans ($729) now sells for between 20 and 40 million tomans (between $4,800 and $9,600).

Pointing out that one of the drugs is Remdesivir, Dr. Moharez said: “if it is produced in Tehran then we must learn how it finds its way onto the black market. If it is imported from other countries it is a real tragedy. Where do they get it from?”

The Iranian government distributes Remdesivir, but only hospitals are supposed to receive it.

IranWire spoke to a nurse at Tehran Shariati Hospital about the situation there. “Various drugs prescribed by doctors sometimes lead to the patient’s death and sometimes the patient recovers,” adding that families and friends of the patients do their best to support and treat their loved ones. “For instance, Remdesivir has been recommended several times by international organizations for treating coronavirus patients and that is why most families are looking for this medication, while other medications work for some other patients. This is an unfamiliar disease and we are doing what we can.”

The nurse also reported that in recent weeks whole families have frequently had to be admitted to the hospital.

The Role of “Revolutionaries”

As lockdowns, which authorities describe as “extensive,” entered their third day, the media continued to publish reports giving evidence that restrictions are being ignored in various parts of Iran.

On Monday, November 23, the Chief Justice of Iran Ebrahim Raeesi advised the health ministry to avoid controversy following the high profile resignations of two health officials, including a deputy to the health minister. He also called on health ministry officials to employ all scientific resources, facilities and manpower at their disposal to save people’s lives, while at the same time claiming that “revolutionary” and “Basiji” forces can save the country from its current difficulty. He also emphasized the importance of Iranians showing solidarity and cooperation under the present conditions.

In an interview that the media labeled “terrifying,” First Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi estimated that the number of new infections in Iran could be as high as 200,000 per day. He said: “For each fatality there must be between 200 and 1,000 cases, meaning that if, in a country 400 die a day [a figure similar to the daily number of fatalities in Iran in recent days], an average of 200 are infected each day. But there is no country in the world that can identify all positive cases.”

A project called “Ghasem Soleimani,” named after the commander of the expeditionary Quds force who was killed in January by a US drone in Iraq, has recently been launched. The project involves members of the paramilitary Basij (“mobilization”) organization, who provide backup at the neighborhood level to ensure people who are supposed to be quarantining follow the rules, and also to offer services including providing food for families in need. On Sunday, November 22, interior minister Rahmani Fazli reported that members of the Basij would be helping the police to supervise compliance with restrictions.

5,000 Vehicles Fined in Two Days

Iranian officials claim that the lockdowns are achieving results, but there have been reports that not everybody is complying with the restrictions. For instance, the newspaper Hamshahri, reporting about Tehran at nighttime, said despite crackdowns, some people continue working after the curfew hours have begun, stating that otherwise, they cannot make a living.

The travel ban between more than 160 cities in red or orange states of alert, and on traffic at night between certain hours within these cities started on Saturday, November 21. On November 23, the Iranian Highway Police announced it had fined approximately 5,000 vehicles during the first two days of the ban. The police also reported that, in the same time period, it had issued warnings to 156,000  drivers, and that 110,000 of them heeded the warning and returned to their points of origin.

Iran Wire

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.