September 21, 2020
One of the most serious problems Iran faces today is exhausted, overworked health workers, and the potential flu epidemic makes the situation all the more frightening.
“Our biggest problem in facing a third wave of coronavirus is the exhaustion of our medical manpower,” said Ali Maher, planning deputy at the Metropolitan Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce. “Existing facilities are enough to handle the current situation, unless this wave proves to be even faster than the initial outbreak of the epidemic.”
All predictions indicate that with the arrival of the cold season, a flu epidemic could potentially lead to a prolonged and more complicated crisis. And yet the government has failed to import the necessary doses of flu vaccine, despite the fact that health officials had repeatedly promised to start distributing the vaccine. First they promised to do so in August, and more recently, they have insisted the process will begin in early autumn.
“The flu is an airborne virus and no precaution can succeed in preventing its transmission because it will continue to float in the air,” said Maher. “What is more, the flu virus has different strains and transmission can occur even from a distance of over 1.5 meters.” He pointed out that coronavirus behaved differently and suggested it was not as airborne as flu viruses tended to be.
The prospect of a shortage in medical manpower is so serious that Shahin Mohammad-Sadeghi, head of the volunteer Medical Basij Community, announced that, in the coming months, it might become necessary to put volunteers through “a crash course” to equip them to be able to work on intensive care (ICU) and coronary care (CCU) wards.
Agreeing that the spread of flu was likely to make the situation more difficult in the coming days, Dr. Minoo Moharez, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, said: “coronavirus works like a time bomb that can explode at any minute and destroy the entire infrastructure. Coronavirus mutates continuously and the way it is transmitted can vary in different cities or countries. This makes it more difficult to diagnose and treat the illness. With even a single failure [in dealing with the virus] we can hurt not only ourselves but everybody else as well.”
She added that in June, the coronavirus mutated, causing greater numbers of infections across the country.
Dr. Moharez also announced that situation in Tehran is now “more red,” meaning an even higher level of emergency than before. And, Dr. Alireza Zali, the director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, said on September 20 that the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in Tehran had risen to 500 in the last 24 hours. He told the public to expect a new surge in the province.
In other provinces the number of cases is rapidly rising as well. Officially, Kermanshah province is in a yellow, or moderate, state of alert. But Dr. Mahmoud Reza Moradi, president of Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, said, “Considering the rise in cases, we must assume that the province is in a red state of alert when making decisions.”
In the last 20 days, he reported, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations in Kermanshah has risen from 170 to 362. “In the last 24 hours, 112 new coronavirus patients were hospitalized in the province and 95 patients were released from the hospital,” said Dr. Moradi. “The number of hospitalizations has exceeded the number of patients who are released by around 20 per day.” Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Kermanshah, 912 people have lost their lives to the virus, he reported.
During the week of September 14, there were reports that a number of students and teachers in Isfahan had been infected with coronavirus. On September 19, it was reported that two children, six and nine years old, were among patients with acute respiratory syndrome to be hospitalized at Kashan’s Shahid Beheshti Hospital. “Currently there are 149 patients with acute respiratory syndrome at the hospital, of whom 30 are in the ICU ward,” said Dr. Alireza Moraveji, president of Kashan University of Medical Sciences.
“Wearing masks has fallen below 20 percent in the province of West Azerbaijan,” reported Dr. Javad Aghazadeh, president of the province’s University of Medical Sciences. “During the last month, the rate of coronavirus infections and fatalities in West Azerbaijan was stable, but in recent days this rate has been going up,” he said. He also warned that some hospitals in the province are running out of capacity.
Announcing that 130 new coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in Alborz province, Dr. Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences, reported that “currently 558 patients with coronavirus symptoms are hospitalized in the province and, as of now, 226 have tested positive for Covid-19.”
In the last 24 hours, one coronavirus patient died in Hormozgan province, bringing the death toll in the province to 752 since the Covid-19 outbreak, reported Dr. Fatemeh Noroozian, spokeswoman for Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences. “Currently 188 confirmed Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in the province,” she said. “Of this number, 53 are in ICU wards and 13 of them are in critical condition.”