By Pouyan Khoshhal
September 12, 2020
President Rouhani’s administration has been harshly criticized for its handling of school re-openings on September 5, including by state institutions. Chief among complaints were those against the official statement that it was mandatory for children to attend classrooms in person, a decision that the government later reversed.
In a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, September 9, President Rouhani urged his critics not to compare Iran with other countries because the Islamic Republic was different due to its unique religious and cultural heritage, but also because it was under brutal sanctions. “We are under sanctions, and the people consider their religious rituals to be important,” he said. He claimed that Muharram religious ceremonies were held “while observing all health guidelines,” a refrain several officials have used in recent weeks and which was not backed up by any evidence. Rouhani went on to insist that Iranians also valued their children’s education, a reminder of his grand statement “We will prove that the dichotomy between education and health is a false one,” which he initially said on September 5, the day schools re-opened.
While defending the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s decision to reopen schools, Rouhani, in line with the government’s apparent U-turn, said students did not have to attend classes in person. “Students must not fall behind in their education,” he said. “There is no coercion and we do not force any family to go to school in person [but] the doors to schools and universities are open. This is an important point for the government.”
Ali Karimi Firouzjaee, a member of the parliament’s board of governors, added his voice to the swell of criticism of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s decision to reopen schools. He said he was giving the taskforce a “fail grade” and announced that the parliament will “do its duty” to protect students, “body and soul.”
This year, Arbaeen, the 40th day of Imam Hossein’s martyrdom in 680 AD, falls on October 7. On this day, many Shias traditionally travel to Iraq to mourn in Karbala where he was killed. But this year the Iraqi government has repeatedly warned that it would not allow foreign pilgrims into the country. Nevertheless, Nosratollah Lotfi, vice president of Islamic Development Coordination Council, announced that the Supreme Leader insisted ceremonies will go ahead in Iran with “passion.” He added: “We have said that the ceremonies cannot be canceled. But they will be held while following health guidelines.
For weeks now Tehran province has been the hardest hit province, and has been continuously in a red, or emergency, state of alert. More than 3,000 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized across the province, one-third of whom are in a critical condition. The daily coronavirus statistics announced by the Ministry of Health give a clearer understanding of what this means. According to these figures, every day somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients across Iran are in a critical condition. Therefore, Tehran’s share is almost one-fourth of the total.
Announcing that on Tuesday, September 8, 36 Covid-19 patients had died in Tehran, Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, governor of the province, concluded that the epidemic in Tehran is on an upward curve. “With the arrival of the fall and the increase in pulmonary and respiratory complaints and influenza, the concern is that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations will increase but, with an increase in the distribution of flu vaccines compared to last year we hope to contain the spread of influenza.”
Officials had promised that the distribution of the flu vaccine would begin in August, but it has now been postponed until later in September. It remains unclear how the distribution will be organized and conducted.
In the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad 257 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized, 130 of whom have tested positive, reported Dr. Parviz Yazdanpanah, president of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad University of Medical Sciences. “The number of Covid-19 cases in the city of Boyer Ahmad is rising,” he said. “On Tuesday the number of patients who tested positive in this city was 60 percent of the total for the whole province. The rise in infections and hospitalizations in Boyer Ahmad is alarming and, if this trend continues, we will have more fatalities in the coming weeks.”