February 17, 2021
A surge in the number of people infected with the highly contagious coronavirus variant found in the UK has deepened fears of an oncoming “fourth wave” in Iran. New cases have been reported across Iran’s central provinces, including Tehran, Alborz, Isfahan and Qazvin. In the latter, two villages have been quarantined.
Kianoush Jahanpour, officially the spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, reported that confirmed cases of the UK-identified variant in Qazvin have gone beyond the seven that was originally reported. As of now, one Covid-19 fatality stemming from this variant has been confirmed in Qazvin, alongside one in Alborz, one in Isfahan and one in Tehran.
Earlier, officials of the Islamic Republic had claimed that they had prevented the spread of this variant by monitoring and controlling travelers coming from foreign countries. But a few days ago Health Minister Saeed Namaki conceded that the variant had “spread across” the country. Some Iranians on social media have accused the government of concealing the truth ahead of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to try to ensure a good turnout. On February 15 it was reported that all the passengers on an incoming flight from the UK had been quarantined, and Namaki said some 2,000 people were waiting “in a European country” to return to Iran.
Meanwhile in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, the number of ordinary coronavirus infections also continues to rise. Some hospitals are now close to capacity and it has been reported that Iraq is considering closing the border with this mountainous region.
Despite all of this, the National Coronavirus Taskforce has agreed to allow vacationers to travel during the holidays that start the Iranian new calendar year on March 21.
Ayatollah Khamenei, “Super Spreader” of Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories
A report by Associated Press has identified the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, as two of the worst “super spreaders” of conspiracy theories about coronavirus and Covid-19.
Back on March 5, 2020, General Salami had declared that Iran was engaged in a battle against a virus that might be the product of an American biological attack. On this spurious basis, Salami ordered a Ground Force Biological Defense Maneuver to test the country’s ability to combat a biological attack.
Khamenei was among the first and most powerful world leaders to suggest the coronavirus could be a biological weapon created by the US. In his annual Persian New Year address to millions of Iranians on March 22, 2020, Khamenei questioned why the US would offer aid to countries like Iran when its own people were suffering, going on to accuse the US of manufacturing the virus. He used this as grounds to refuse US medical aid, declaring: “Possibly [US] medicine is a way to spread the virus more”. Last month, Khamenei also forbade the importation of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in Britain and the US.