January 20, 2021
Iranian health officials have continued to warn against travel during the holidays, but religious ceremonies to mark Fatimiyya, the days when Muslims and especially Shias mourn the martyrdom of Fatimiyya al-Zahra, the youngest daughter of Prophet Mohammad, have continued despite the ban on gatherings.
Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said that travel is a very important factor in spreading coronavirus but he claimed that in recent months religious ceremonies and Friday prayers have been held in compliance with health protocols. Without citing any specifics he did concede that “it is possible” that in certain cases compliance has not been perfect.
Raeesi said that the increase in the number of travelers to Qeshm, an island in the Strait of Hormuz, is cause for alarm and could be contributing to an increase in the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities. Pictures and videos posted online show a rush of travelers from the wintery areas of Iran to Qeshm and Hormuz islands, attracted by their balmy weather at this time of the year.
The holiday attracted travelers to scenic northern provinces as well. Dr. Abtin Heydarzadeh, vice president of Gilan University of Medical Sciences, pleaded with visitors to avoid gatherings or traveling within the province. He said that in the past 24 hours 75 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in Gilan, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 440, of whom 98 are being treated in intensive care units.
Heydarzadeh added that although the volume of hospitalizations was better than a month earlier, after each wave of travelers “we have an increase in the number of hospitalizations in five to 14 days.”
There was speculation that an increase in the number of infections in the neighboring northern province of Mazandaran was possibly due to the more contagious strain of coronavirus that was first detected in the UK, but health officials denied this. Simin Babaei, spokesman for Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, said that no instance of this virus variant had been detected in the province.
Unlike other Iranian provinces that saw various degrees of decline in Covid-19 infections and fatalities after extended restrictions and lockdowns, the number of infections in Mazandaran has been rising in recent weeks and the 10 cities on red alert are all located in this province. In the past 24 hours 266 new coronavirus patients were hospitalized across Mazandaran, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the province to 1,335.
A Warning to the People of Tehran
Saeed Khal, CEO of Behesht Zahra Cemetery Organization in Tehran, said the number of Covid-19 fatalities in the capital has fallen but warned residents that negligence in observing health protocols would return the city to the crisis of a couple of months ago.
Since the Iranian Health Ministry started reporting coronavirus statistics, the number of fatalities announced by Behesht Zahra Cemetery has usually exceeded those published by the Health Ministry. The discrepancy is due to the fact that the Health Ministry only includes the deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid-19, while the cemetery relies on causes registered on death certificates.
In the meantime, Tehran Municipality reported that, as of now, approximately 2,400 municipal workers have been infected with coronavirus. However, since there are many companies that work as contractors with the municipality, no accurate data on the number of infections and fatalities among municipal workers is available.
Concerning Situation in Other Provinces
In the past 24 hours 54 more people tested positive for Covid-19 in Yazd, of whom 39 were hospitalized, according to Dr. Ebrahim Soleimani, spokesman for Yazd University of Medical Sciences, who said that this was the highest number in almost a month. Currently 155 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in the province, 46 of them in intensive care units. In the same 24 hours one Covid-19 patient died in Yazd.
With the death of another coronavirus patient in Kermanshah the official Covid-10 death toll in the province reached 1,439 and 31 more patients were hospitalized, bringing the total to 155. Of the 432 tests conducted in the province in the past 24 hours 69 were positive.
In the past 24 hours one more coronavirus patient died in Alborz and the death toll in the province since the coronavirus outbreak began reached 2,636, according to Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences, who also said that, with the hospitalization of 37 new patients with coronavirus symptoms, there are now 299 suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients in treatment centers across the province.
With the death of five more confirmed coronavirus cases in Qazvin, the death toll in the province reached 1,257. Currently 179 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in Qazvin, of whom 32 were added in the past 24 hours from among 61 who tested positive for Covid-19.