The Islamic Republic added 500 new cases to yesterday’s total of Iranians who have tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and officials say 107 patients have died as of Thursday morning March 5.
Announcing this, Iran's health Minister Saeed Namaki also said that 1,352 of those tested positive for the virus are in the capital Tehran. He promised that figures will be more accurate later as Iran has received new test kits.
Meanwhile, superstition, disinformation and propaganda warfare by hardliners have not been helpful. In one of the latest cases of propaganda moves, IRGC commander Hossein Salami charged on Thursday that the spread of the disease was part of a biological warfare by the United States against China and Iran. This comes while a day earlier, Iran's Passive Defense Chief had strongly ruled out the outlandish conspiracy theory drawing attention to the growing outbreak in America.
Speaking at a news conference, the minister said that all academic centers including the universities will be closed until the end of the current Iranian year which coincides with the start of a two-week New Year holiday on March 20. This means, schools and universities in Iran will be closed for at least four weeks.
He also said that the entrance exams for graduate courses have been postponed indefinitely.
In another remark, Namaki said that government employees who conceal their infection with the virus will be dealt with.
Namaki added that passengers will be monitored at the entrance of major cities and if suspected of carrying the virus, they might be held in quarantine for two weeks.
The Iranian health minister revealed that the three cities of Tehran, Qom, and Isfahan as well as Gilan Province which have the largest number of Coronavirus patients are officially declared as the focal points of the contagion.
Officials in Isfahan, the last city declared to be heavily affected by the virus, announced on Wednesday that the city cannot welcome tourists for the Iranian New Year holidays.
In the meantime, shortage of medical supplies such as medicine, masks and disinfectants has seriously affected prevention and treatment efforts. A video released on social media shows people at a pharmacy in Rasht in northern province of Gilan, where some of them say they have been waiting for several hours for their prescription. One patient yells that a family member is dying and demands medication.
Crowd Waiting to get coronavirus medicine in front of a Red Crescent Pharmacy in Rasht, Iran
Meanwhile, a Washington Post report says "the outbreak sweeping through Iran has delivered a jarring blow to the senior ranks of its government, infecting about two dozen members of parliament and at least 15 other current or former top figures."
The report was referring to several officials including vice-president Es'haq Jahangiri, deputy health Minister Iraj Harirchi, and the death of Mohammad Mirmohammadi an adviser to Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and Ahmad Twiserkani, an adviser to Iran's Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi.
Meanwhile, releasing a map showing the way Coronavirus spread from Qom to the rest of the country, the head of Iran's Coronavirus Control Task Force Kianush Jahanpur called for limiting travels across the country to curb the spread of the virus.
Map tweeted by Health Ministry Spokesman shows spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) from Qom to other regions of Iran.
Jahanpur urged the people to stay indoors as the spread of the virus up to 80 percent depends on people moving around. He also strictly advised residents of major cities to stay indoors during Saturday and Sunday as a major disinfecting move is underway.
In a similar development, Alireza Zali, the man in charge of the task force for Greater Tehran also criticized the capital's citizens and officials for keeping social activities at a normal level while the spread of the virus has created an emergency situation.
Subsequently, It was announced in Tehran Thursday morning that all cultural and social gatherings have been banned until further notice because of risks to public health. However, there has been resistance on the part of movie theater owners who fear bankruptcy.
While Iran, China, South Korea and Italy have the largest number of patients affected with the virus, both Iranians and the international community have repeatedly criticized the government for concealing the number of Coronavirus cases and downplaying the implications of the outbreak. Many believe this behaver which hindered awareness about the disease has been a major cause of the wide-ranging spread of the virus.
As a result of denials, secrecy and propaganda warfare by the government, several weeks after the start of the outbreak the government has simply released fragmented statistics devoid of information about age, gender and demographic distribution of infections and deaths.
It also does not appear to have a thorough understanding of the requirements of the situation. For instance, Iran has been exporting protective hygienic products such as masks and gloves mindless of the fact that its own people would need the same supplies as the epidemic further spreads.