By Pouyan Khoshhal
February 18, 2021
Almost a year after the coronavirus outbreak was formally declared in Iran, a key challenge now facing health officials is the spread of the more infectious variant detected in the United Kingdom, which affects younger age groups more severely and has a higher recorded mortality rate.
Kianoush Jahanpour, head of the Health Ministry’s public relations office, stated on February 16 that 17 cases of infection by this mutated form of the virus have so far been confirmed in Iran through testing. Seven of them were in Qazvin, where “special measures” have reportedly been taken to identify and contain the spread of the virus.
“I do not believe that there are only these few cases in Qazvin,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki had said a day earlier. He added that health officials in Qazvin and the neighboring provinces of Zanjan, Alborz and Tehran must coordinate so that the region is constantly being monitored and effecting measures can be taken to “extinguish” a potential peak.
In recent days Health Ministry officials have reported that at least four people have died from Covid-19 contracted from this variant in the cities of Hashtgerd, Qazvin, Kashan and Tehran. Seven cases have also been officially confirmed in Tehran province but no further information about these patients is available.
Karim Hemmati, head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, announced that his organization is taking the necessary actions to import the Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine, produced by the state enterprise Sinopharm. The first shipment of this vaccine is due to arrive in Iran within a month. He added that the Red Crescent Society is not involved in importing the Russian Sputnik V or other foreign vaccines and is only involved in procuring the Chinese-made product.
The last time Hemmati spoke publicly about coronavirus vaccines was about two months ago, when he said his organization was going to import 150,000 of the Pfizer vaccine donated by philanthropists. But after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei banned the importation of American and British-made vaccines to Iran, he went silent on the subject.