Dr. Alireza Zali, the head of the Tehran Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, has admitted for the first time that the escalation of the COVID-19 in Iran over recent months was caused by a “strategic mistake” on the parts of the government and health authorities.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dr. Zali said that holding the people solely responsible for applying social distancing and health regulations, as opposed to the authorities, was "a strategic mistake.”
Dr. Zali also defended the hands-on intervention of the government to combat the coronavirus epidemic, calling it a sign of "good governance".
"The effectiveness of the government actions will be affected if public trust is marred for any reason," Dr. Zali said, adding that the loss of public health in this case results from the government's lack of a realistic approach to the epidemic.
Criticizing the government for lifting the restrictions and ending the lockdown too soon, Dr. Zali said people are worried about earning their living to survive and the government's haste in resuming normal activities could lead them to believe that the epidemic had been contained.
Iranian authorities have repeatedly blamed citizens for not observing social distancing and other health protocols.
Another official of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, Dr. Ali Maher, also called for greater government intervention to contain the crisis.
Daily deaths in Iran dropped from around 150 in March to around 50 early April after a partial lockdown came into effect in late March. The number began to surge again after the relaxation of lockdown measures on April 12, and on July 21 reached a record high of 229.
Dr. Maher said the Tehran taskforce has proposed that to enforce the regulations more effectively, penalties should be introduced to ensure all individuals and businesses abide by the health protocol designed for preventing the spread of the virus.
According to Dr. Maher, cash fines could be imposed on people who take unnecessary trips. Citizens could be made to pay for their own treatment if they contract the virus, he said, adding that cash fines could also be imposed on people who refuse to wear masks.