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Iran Health Officials Concerned About Rebound Effect Of Relaxing Lockdown

Health workers in Iranian hospital.
Health workers in Iranian hospital.

Iran's official COVID-19 cases and deaths have been going down since early April but Iran's health officials are concerned that relaxation of lockdown may reverse the situation.

According to the latest official figures announced on Saturday, the daily death toll has been at its lowest since April 4 with 74 more death in the past 24-hour period. The number of new cases has also dropped to 1,134 bringing the total deaths and cases over the past two months to 5650 and 89,328, respectively.

Announcing the new numbers on Saturday the Health Ministry Spokesman Dr. Kianoush Jahanpur said currently 3,096 COVID-19 patients are in critical situation.

While some Health Ministry officials say the COVID-19 trajectory indicates that numbers are going down in most provinces, others warn about an increase in several provinces including East and West Azarbaijan, Tehran, Khuzestan, Zanjan and Fars all of which are among the most populated provinces of the country. They attribute the rebound in these provinces to the relaxation of lockdown.

Parks and municipal gardens opened to the public this week.

The Rouhani administration and its COVID-19 task force effectively put an end to social distancing from April 8 by introducing a plan called "smart social distancing". The government has also allowed the reopening of medium-risk businesses out of concern for the deteriorating economic situation.

Pointing out that every step in reducing lockdown will manifest itself in more hospitalizations after two weeks and in the death toll after one month, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi on Saturday said that in comparison with early April the number of hospitalizations and deaths have gone down by 50% and 70% percent respectively but warned about a rebound if social distancing is abandoned.

Commenting on opening mosques and shrine to the public – which President Hassan Rouhani has said will remain closed at least until May 5 – Harirchi said authorities are considering the option of deciding about the opening of places of religious gathering in separate towns and cities on the basis of the situation on the ground in each location. A decision about opening schools and universities has not been taken yet, he said and added that they will probably be among the last to open.