An Iranian woman wears a mask to help guard against dangerous levels of air pollution in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. (AP)

By Pouyan Khoshhal

October 13, 2020

The daily death toll from coronavirus broke records in Iran for a second day in a row, with 272 fatalities on Monday, October 12, up from 251 a day earlier. The majority of hospitals have run out of beds and the surge of coronavirus is so overwhelming that the National Coronavirus Taskforce finally approved a measure to impose fines on “coronavirus violators” in greater Tehran, saying that other provinces might follow suit.

According to Dr. Masoud Mardani, an infectious diseases specialist and a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, the dimensions of the recent surge in coronavirus are very alarming. “In the last seven or eight months we have never come across such a situation,” he said. “If this trend continues we can expect a significant rise in the number of hospitalizations and mortalities.” He said some hospitals in Tehran have been almost filled to capacity.

General distribution of the flu vaccine was supposed to start in August, but this has yet to happen. Health officials had promised to provide 16 million doses but so far, they have secured only 1.7 million doses for exclusive use by high-risk groups.

Meanwhile, health minister Saeed Namaki announced on October 12: “In the next two or three weeks the testing of the vaccine on humans will start.” He was of course not referring to the flu vaccine but to a vaccine for coronavirus being developed in Iran. Namaki claimed the results from tests on animals had been encouraging but that there were still unanswered questions about its degree of effectiveness, durability and other features. “We are working on these,” he said.

In Tehran province, only  32 percent of people are observing health protocols, according to Hamid Reza Goodarzi, deputy governor for security affairs in the province. He stated that wearing masks is mandatory for people over 18. The first time an individual violates the mandate, they will receive a warning, he said, but if they break the rules a second time they will be fined 50,000 tomans ($12).

Air pollution in metropolitan areas threatens to weaken the body’s defenses against coronavirus, said Dr. Abbas Shahsavani, head of the health ministry’s Working Group on Air Safety and Climate Change. “Published research shows that long-term exposure to suspended particles and polluting gases such as nitrogen dioxide results in the overproduction of ACE2 [angiotensin-converting enzyme 2] in the lungs’ alveoli [air sacs] and this…disrupts the body’s defense system.”

Pointing out that with the arrival of cold season, air pollution will increase, he asked people to stay indoors for longer periods on days when air pollution is high.

Iran Wire

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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.