The Secretary of Retirees Association in Rasht, the capital of Gilan province in northern Iran, has said 400 retirees have died of COVID-19 in the city since February 19.
Ebrahim Yousefzadeh who was speaking at the gathering of representatives of trade associations of Gilan Province on Friday said the families of the deceased have received a 50-million rial (about $320) loan from Retirees' Insurance Fund and 10 million rials (65) for burial costs from the Retirees Association of Gilan. According to Yousefzdeh all of the 68,000 retirees of Rasht are suffering from dire financial difficulties now.
Gilan Province and its capital Rasht were among the first areas hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic in Iran. A lawmaker from Rasht on March 7 said the situation in his constituency was "horrific" and that the number of cases and deaths was multiplying fast.
Four hundred deaths only in one city and among retirees is a large figure, given the overall nationwide death toll of 6,000 the government has so far announced. This can fuel more doubts about the accuracy of of official numbers.
The epidemic slowed down somewhat in Gilan for a few weeks after the government introduced a lockdown in March. According to a provincial medical official, in the neighboring Mazandaran Province, the number of cases has been increasing again after a month of relative stabilization.
Gilan province is still among the areas marked as a "red zone" by the Health Ministry. Mohammad-Hossein Qorbani, the representative of the Health Minister in Gilan, on Monday said the virus is now spreading again through family circles and warned that a second wave of the epidemic is imminent due to the perception that the situation has gone back to normal.
During the peak of the epidemic in the province in mid-March the local media repeatedly called on the Health Ministry to provide more realistic figures on the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 to the public. This was important in order to encourage people to take self-isolation seriously and to prevent the further spread of the virus in the province.
Gilan lies to the south of the Caspian Sea and its economy heavily relies on tourism. The coronavirus epidemic and self-isolation has hugely reduced the income of many businesses in the province.