Commuters wearing masks against coronavirus on Tehran underground (Metro) on April 7, 2020. (IRNA)

By Pouyan Khoshhal

August 31, 2020

The coronavirus news on August 30 started with Deputy Health Minister Ghasem Jan-Babaei complaining of holiday travels to the northern province of Mazandaran. “Health workers are doing everything in their power to serve the people but they are exhausted because some disregard the [coronavirus] guidelines,” he said. “More serious action must be taken against those who travel regardless of the guidance. But this is not the Health Ministry’s job and authorities in other areas must enforce the restrictions.”

Jan-Babaei can complain that many travelers have been rushing to tourist locations in the picturesque provinces of northern Iran and the shores of the Caspian Sea: in Mazandaran alone the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients has climbed to 800.

In the 24 hours before August 30, in the neighboring province of Gilan, 75 new coronavirus patients including 15 out-of-province holiday travelers were hospitalized. Dr. Arsalan Salari, president of the Gilan University of Medical Sciences, said that the high number of travelers to the province was alarming and that “unfortunately, in some of the parks in various areas of the province, tourists have set up tents without observing health guidelines.”

After Qom, Gilan was the second Iranian province to become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran. A number of doctors and other health workers have lost their lives there to Covid-19 since March. The second peak of the epidemic started some time ago in Gilan and the province is now in a red state of alert.

Some other provinces also report that the number of coronavirus cases are rising. On Saturday, August 29, Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, reported that after a few weeks of decline, the number of infections is rising once again. “Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, we have witnessed an alarming increase in the number of hospitalizations that show people have been behaving differently, including a decline in wearing masks and an increase in traveling to areas in a red state of alert,” he said.

In Hormozgan province the total death toll has reached 691. As of today, 246 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized across the province. Fifty-five of these patients are in ICU wards and 22 of them are in critical condition.

In Kerman province, the coronavirus total death toll exceeded 700 and the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations now stands at 232. And a six-day-old baby girl reportedly lost her life to coronavirus in the province of Bushehr.

According to Dr. Alireza Zali, director of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, even though Tehran province is still is in a red state of alert, holiday travels have not yet made much difference to the number of patients. But the holiday period is not yet over and it is unclear if the cases may still rise when travelers return home to Tehran.

Holy days, vaccines and expecting mothers

Besides the holiday travels, Muharram ceremonies to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hossein are also still a cause for concern. The National Coronavirus Taskforce had issued strict guidelines to ban mourning processions in the streets and other public places. But in a number of provinces not only were mourning ceremonies held but distancing and other health protocols were mostly ignored. In some provinces, officials intervened to stop some of the more dangerously crowded traditional ceremonies.

In a conversation with Health Minister Saeed Namaki, President Hassan Rouhani referred to news that progress toward a coronavirus vaccine had advanced in some countries, and ordered that necessary measures be taken to purchase the vaccine as soon as possible and to carry out the necessary trials.

“Those who have traveled during the recent holidays should not allow their non-compliance with [health] protocols to cause a new escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak and negatively affect the hard work of medical workers,” said Rouhani. “Those who have traveled should strictly follow the health instructions and physical distancing and avoid being in crowded places to prevent damage to the success that has been achieved in controlling the second wave of coronavirus”.

Expecting mothers, meanwhile, need not worry about coronavirus when giving birth in maternity wards because they would be put in a single-bed LDR (labor, delivery, and recovery) room, said Deputy Health Minister Ghasem Jan-Babaei.

“The maternity wards are not contaminated with coronavirus because all health workers in these wards wear protective gear and are regularly tested for coronavirus. So I must say that pregnant women will not get infected in maternity wards,” Jan-Babaei said. “But there are some mothers who are already infected when they enter the hospital … We were able to treat many of them and they were able to give birth.”

“When a pregnant woman is infected with coronavirus, the first priority is to treat her for coronavirus so that she can give birth in a better condition,” he added.

In a tweet, Kianoush Jahanpour, director of the Health Ministry’s public relations office, criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) for disseminating “superstitious” treatments for Covid-19. “People turn to Channel 3 that says Imam Kazem’s remedy is good for coronavirus. Channel 5 says only salt would work and when they return to Channel 3 it says a honey bee sting does wonders,” he wrote.

Jahanpour used the hashtag “violet” at the bottom of his tweet, a reference to Abbas Tabrizian, a quack doctor who rejects modern medicine and believes in what he calls “Islamic medicine.” In the early weeks after the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, he and his followers promoted violet oil as a cure for the virus. In April, a promoter of this remedy by the name of Morteza Kohan-Sal was arrested in a hospital in Gilan because he had gone among coronavirus patients without wearing protective gear.

Likewise, on August 22, news outlets reported that two traditional medicine experts had written to religious authorities. The letter emphasized that one of the important causes of coronavirus fatalities in Iran had been the failure to use the “capabilities of traditional medicine.” They wrote that “if, in addition to widespread promotion of wearing masks and social distancing, we had promoted simple preventive measures such as taking garlic, honey, black cumin and ginger and gargling with saltwater, many of our colleagues and fellow Iranians would still be among us.”

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.