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Coronavirus Cases Reach Close To 3,000 In Iran, Death Toll On the Rise

A woman has her temperature checked and her hands disinfected as she enters the Palladium Shopping Center, in northern Tehran, March 3, 2020
A woman has her temperature checked and her hands disinfected as she enters the Palladium Shopping Center, in northern Tehran, March 3, 2020

With 586 new patients tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19) during the past day, the total number of those identified with the virus in Iran has reached 2922, the Iranian Health Ministry announced on Wednesday March 4.

At least 15 of the new patients tested positive for the virus have died. Dr. Kianush Jahanpur, a spokesman for the virus control task force added that so far 92 Iranians have died as a result of the outbreak.

He added that so far the treatment of 522 patients in quarantine has been successful, ISNA reported.

Observers outside Iran including researchers in the United States and Europe agree that after several days of denial and playing down the number of those inflicted with the virus, Iran has started to announce more realistic figures since Tuesday that give a clearer picture of the outbreak’s dimension. However, there is likely to be a gap between real figures and what is being announced.

For at least two weeks Iran did not give away any figures and when it did it started with announcing with unusually small numbers while the public knew about deaths and widespread contagion at least in the three cities of Qom, Tehran and Rasht.

Three weeks into the outbreak, still the latest overall figures released by the Iranian government Tuesday morning, did not include information about Qom, Tehran and Gilan Province.

In the meantime, reports say that a World Health Organization (WHO) delegation is going to visit Iran in order to assess the situation.

Incoming reports from Iran still indicate a serious shortage of medical equipment, hygienic masks and disinfectants. The government appears to have given up paying attention to coronavirus, as President Hassan Rouhani did not say much about the situation in his remarks during a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning.

Pictures of the meeting show that Vice-President Jahangiri and Industry Minister Reza Rahmani were absent. There are reports about Rahmani being hospitalized at an intensive care unit after being tested positive for the virus, but there is still no report about Jahangiri who may or may not be ill but some social media users insist that he is.

President Rouhani was sitting alone at the head table, not flanked by Jahangiri and his chief of staff as is customary in cabinet meetings.

Before and after...Cabinet meeting last week and the meeting this week
This week's cabinet meeting vs last weeks.
This week's cabinet meeting vs last weeks.

Before and after...The meeting of supreme economic coordinating council. This week, few people were attending

Supreme economic coordinating council this week vs last week.
Supreme economic coordinating council this week vs last week.

An ISNA report on Wednesday said that there has been a 30 percent increase in the consumption of water in Iran as a result of the panic caused by the outbreak and the obsession about bathing and washing hands.

The authorities in Mashhad have declared a state of red alert Wednesday morning, but there are still ambiguities whether the emergency situation also applies to the shrine in the city that attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at this time of the year.

In the meantime, news about the impact of the outbreak on Iran's economy has been emerging in the press. Aftab Yazd newspaper reported on Tuesday that the country's borders are closed because of the outbreak of coronavirus, adding that Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia and some other countries refuse to accept Iranian products and goods until further notice.

Meanwhile, authorities in Isfahan have called on tourists not to visit the city. Reports say that the cancellations of visits to cities such as Isfahan and Mashhad have caused hundreds of billions of rials in losses to hotels and touring agencies. This time of the year, a few weeks before the Iranian New Year, is traditionally the peak of tourism in Iran.

Earlier, a Radio Farda report talked about losses by at least 40 percent of the service sector in Iran including hotels, restaurants, and retail businesses as a result of the outbreak.

Khamenei's annual tree planting ceremony in the past on the left, and on March 3 on the right.

In an indication of increasing awareness about preventive measures, Iranian media on Tuesday published pictures of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wearing disposable gloves and keeping everyone away on the tree-plantation day. Usually on such occasions there were several others around him.

In spite of his awareness of hygienic precautions against the virus, in his advice to the public, he simply called on them to pray.