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Iran Health Officials Concerned Over Ventilator Shortage In Oil-Rich Province Hospitals

People wear masks in a traditional market in the capital, Tehran, a day after imposed mandatory regulation by the government on Monday, July 06, 2020.

An official of Jondi-Shapour Medical Sciences University in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan Province where the COVID-19 crisis has reached alarming dimensions said Sunday shortage of ventilators has become a serious issue in hospitals.

Khuzestan Province has been a coronavirus hotspot since early May. After a drop in April in the daily deaths from COVID-19 which lasted for about a month. The number of new cases and deaths since then have been rising alarmingly.

Speaking at a meeting of Khuzestan Coronavirus Management Headquarters, Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian said at least seventeen hospitals in the province either lack ventilators or are facing a shortage amid the escalating epidemic.

According to a report by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), he said the price of ventilators has risen up to three times. Recently some officials had claimed that production of ventilators increased and the machines were being exported to other countries.

In late April when President Donald Trump said the United States had "thousands of excess ventilators" and offered to send some to Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif retorted that Iran was making its own ventilators and would soon be exporting them to other countries.

On Monday Iran banned the export of masks. Wearing masks in public places has now become compulsory. Iranian media say the price of masks has gone up by 30 percent in recent days.

Iran was the second country in the world with a major outbreak that started in February. The Health Ministry, whose numbers are based only on cases confirmed by testing, says so far nearly 12,000 have died of COVID-19 and 243,000 have been infected. However, on Sunday a ministry official said random serologic tests that measure antibodies in the blood indicate that around 20 percent of Iranians must have been infected with the virus so far.

According to the latest official announcement on Monday, 160 patients died of COVID-19 since Sunday and 2,613 new cases were confirmed.

Health Ministry officials also say the situation in the capital Tehran has become alarming after the partial lockdown and restrictions were rolled back to revive the economy a little over a month ago. Deputy Health Minister Mohsen Farhadi on Monday said the numbers in Tehran are spiking and a return of the restrictions is possible.