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Iran Parliament Warns Of Epidemic's 'Painful Consequences' And Multiple Crises

Burial of coronavirus victims in Iran. April 6, 2020

Iranian Parliament' Research Center has warned that the government's delay in extending financial support to low-income people hit by the coronavirus outbreak may entail "painful consequences."

In an elaborate allusion to the possibility of dissent and protests in Iran, the report charged that what President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has done so far to support "the poor and vulnerable people" has been "belated, passive and non-proactive."

The report further warned that the continuation of this situation will end vulnerable people's toleration and may lead to other painful events.

"Although the virus may be controlled among upper and middle-class groups, ignoring the weak and poor strata such as children working in the streets, peddlers, beggars, the homeless and scavengers who look for food in the garbage, will further exacerbate the situation of the outbreak and renewed outbreaks might occur in all cities," the report continued.

Earlier, some Iranian officials had said that up to 19 million underprivileged people were living on the margins of major Iranian cities, particularly in Tehran.

Meanwhile, Iranian media have reported widespread contagion of COVID-19 in marginal areas. In a report about people living in poor areas around the city of Kerman in the southeast, semi-official news agency ISNA wrote, "The water supply to the area has been cut off for days. Children play with mud ignoring all hygienic advice. Drug addicts move around here and there, while a woman with a mask covering her mouth is diligently searching the garbage for something."

While governments all over the world have approved delivering support packages to take care of the poor, the Iranian government has promised low-interest loans to some businesses, but even this will not be given to most wage earners including workers and peddlers.

Based on the research by the Majles, Afghan refugees in Iran who do not have identification documents will have to pay all of the cost of their medical treatment if they are infected by COVID-19. According to the research, these patients will not go to medical centers and therefore, will spread the virus far and wide.

Meanwhile, explaining the economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, the report has warned about the emergence of a "crisis" in the supply of food in the face of a rising foreign currency shortage, rising inflation and pressure on pension funds.

Other reports have also warned that the disruption of the food supply chain in Iran might "turn the unfavorable economic situation into a crisis."

Last week a group of economists warned President Rouhani that failure to extend support to low-income Iranians might give way to widespread protests after or even before the end of the COVID-19 outbreak.

All this is taking place against a backdrop of a rise in the number of coronavirus patients in Iran and the alarming death toll which has also badly affected the medical staff.

An exclusive independent report by Radio Farda based on statements made by local officials across the country indicates that 94,956 have been hospitalized in Iran until April 6 with COVID-19 symptoms.

Meanwhile, the report puts the number of those who died as a result of the infection since February in 31 Iranian provinces at 6,872 or almost twice the official government number.

In another development, because of the government's failure in controlling the population's movements around the country during the Iranian New Year holidays (March 20 - April 2) there has been a hike in the number of patients.

Alireza Zali who oversees the disease control in Tehran says there has been a renewed momentum in the number of patients hospitalized in the Iranian capital.

He announced on the state TV on April 5 that 99 new patients have been hospitalized at the Intensive Care Units with another 448 new patients also admitted in other wards as a result of infection with coronavirus.

Zali attributed the rise in the number of new COVID-19 patients to the people's presence in the streets and workplaces following an order by President Rouhani ending the quasi-lockdown.

In an interview with Arman newspaper in Tehran on Monday April 6, Parvaneh Salahshouri, an outspoken lawmaker, charged that Rouhani is against a lockdown to control the disease because he does not have the money to compensate losses sustained by businesses and even if he had, his administration was not capable of controlling the situation.