As the number of coronavirus patients in Iran soared to nearly 25,000, an outspoken lawmaker has harshly criticized President Hassan Rouhani for preventing restrictive measures to counter the outbreak, accusing him of suffering from delusion about conspiracies.
Reiterating his opposition to even a partial lockdown, Rouhani had said on Sunday that it was "a counter-revolutionary conspiracy to shut down offices and do harm to the country's economy."
Mahmoud Sadeqi, MP for Tehran, charged in a tweet that decisions made by the highest-ranking Iranian officials are fuelled by delusion of conspiracies, adding that while experts insist on the importance of social distancing and lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, Rouhani is resisting the closure of government offices, putting people in danger.
Rouhani earlier had declared closure of offices and businesses until April 4, but he later changed his mind and said there will be business as usual starting from March 24.
He again changed his mind on Tuesday, declaring that half of the government work force should stay home.
In the meantime, Health Ministry Spokesman Kianush Jahanpur put the number of coronavirus cases in Iran at 24,811 on Tuesday; 1762 more than the day before.
With 122 new deaths, the official COVID-19 death toll in Iran has reached 1934, Jahanpur said. This comes while some Iranian and foreign reports question the validity of official figures.
According to an exclusive report, data gathered by Radio Farda from various national and local media in Iran quoting local authorities and Health Ministry officials indicate that the coronavirus has infected 55,344 Iranians and has claimed 2,703 lives as of Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, a WHO official who recently visited Iran says the actual infection and death figures are up to five times higher than the numbers announced by the Health Ministry.
Jahanpur added that paramedics have screened more than 41 million Iranians for the virus by Tuesday morning. According to the Iranian president, the "screening" is done over the phone by asking people if they are ill as testing all the population is not practical and "checking people's temperature causes traffic jams."
Jahanpur said the disease control task force has suggested that not more than one in every three employees should go to work.
In the meantime, Rouhani said on Tuesday that the furlough granted to thousands of prisoners in Iran will be extended until April 20 to keep them safe from the virus.
Rouhani claimed that the daily number of deaths has dropped and therefore along with the dropping number of new admissions to hospitals, these can be taken as good signs. But the figures announced by the government in recent days do not show a visible decline in numbers.
Rouhani also called for a 14-day quarantine for everyone tested positive for the virus and called on the nation to observe social distancing at shops and medical centers. All other gatherings including weddings and funerals are not allowed, he said.
Presenting a report about 2,450,000 government employees and the decisions made about them on Tuesday, Rouhani said that 1,200,000 of them including the teachers and staff members of the Ministry of education have already sopped working. From among the rest, those like medical staff and municipal workers, around half a million, should carry on going to work advised that people should always think that anyone they see may be affected by the virus. Others can work on rotation and one third of them should be at work at any given time.
In an odd comment Rouhani said that although the permitted distance between any two people has been announced as 2 meters, people can get as close as 1.8 meters!
In another development, in a letter to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, one of the Iranian lawmakers, Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh suggested that the Majles should pass a law to shut down the whole country for 30 days and extend this period later if necessary.
Meanwhile, Alireza Zali, a Health Ministry official has warned about "the second wave of Coronavirus outbreak" as holidaymakers return home by the first of April.