Medical professionals are caring for a COVID-19 patient at Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital in Tehran, Iran this Wednesday October 14, 2020, a photo by the Iranian Ministry of Health. Iran is facing a new barrage of infections filling hospitals and cemeteries alike. (Akbar Badrkhani / Iranian Ministry of Health via AP)
Iran announced on Saturday that its death toll from the coronavirus had passed the 30,000 milestone in what was the region’s worst outbreak in the Middle East.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari announced that the total death toll from the outbreak had reached at least 30,123.
She said 4,721 virus patients are in critical condition.
Iran has struggled with the coronavirus since its first cases were announced in February. To date, more than 526,000 cases have been confirmed.
Over the past few weeks, Iran has raised the daily death toll to its highest ever level, a cause for growing concern, even as government officials continue to rebel over fears of the economy crumbling, badly hit by US sanctions oppose a total ban.
On Wednesday, Iranian officials announced a travel ban to and from five major cities, including the capital Tehran and the holy city of Mashhad. They said they wanted to contain the spread of the virus.
The coronavirus has also spread to some of the highest levels of the Iranian government, which include many older men. Among those recently infected is the head of the country’s nuclear energy organization, while the Iranian vice president in charge of budget and planning tested positive on Sunday.
In this October 13, 2020 photo, released by the official website of the Iranian Presidency’s Office, President Hassan Rouhani, wearing a protective face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran . Iran is facing a new barrage of infections filling hospitals and cemeteries alike. Weeks after Rouhani called personal tuition in schools “our first priority,” the government closed the newly opened schools and universities in the capital. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)
After downplaying the outbreak in the first few weeks, Iranian officials have more recently started to admit the extent of the epidemic within the country.
Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, who tested positive for the virus in March after downplaying his threat and disproving reports of mass deaths, told state television on Wednesday that the country’s real death toll was roughly twice that like the reported numbers.
According to official figures, there are also a large number of patients in hospitals who are treated as COVID-19 cases but who have not been tested, whose tests have been found to be false negative or whose symptoms do not match those of the World Health Organization and therefore do not match be taken into account in the official case numbers.
As in many other countries, the spiraling outbreak in Iran is a reflection of the government’s contradicting virus response. This week, as the daily death toll hit three times the record, authorities announced stricter restrictions on the hardest-hit capital, Tehran.
Recently reopened universities and schools as well as libraries, mosques, cinemas, museums and beauty salons have been closed. Last week, the government ordered all residents of Tehran to wear face masks outdoors and in public places to warn of violations. Officials promised that those who tested positive would be followed closely.
Restrictions in movement this spring have slowed the spread of the disease somewhat. Then the government quickly reopened the country and was determined to stimulate the ailing economy. The number of cases has increased steadily since June – and has reached new heights in recent weeks.
A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus walks through the traditional bazaar of Tajrish in northern Tehran, Iran on Thursday, October 15, 2020. Eight months after the first pandemic, Iran stormed Iran, beating its already weakened economy and disease-inducing officials at the highest levels of government appear just as helpless to prevent its spread. (AP Photo / Ebrahim Noroozi)
Long before the virus emerged, the Iranian economy was hit by US sanctions following the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. As the death toll rose this week, the nation’s currency fell to its lowest ever level after the U.S. government decided last week to blacklist Iranian banks that have so far escaped most of the re-imposed US sanctions were.
As Iran approaches winter, seasonal influenza could be an additional and serious problem for the country as it bought the flu vaccine due to new US sanctions against Iranian banks.
Iran’s Red Crescent Society said in a tweet on Tuesday that they were responsible for importing two million doses of flu vaccine into the country, but that new US sanctions prevented imports.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates announced the highest number of new cases of the coronavirus in a day on Saturday, amid a surge in the Gulf nation, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The country’s health ministry said tests found 1,538 new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of cases to 114,387.
The ministry said another four people died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 459. The total recovery is 106,354.
People wear protective face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the traditional Tajr bazaar in northern Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, October 15, 2020. Eight months after the first pandemic, Iran stormed Iran, knocking down its already weakened economy and making officials sick at the highest levels of government, the authorities seem just as helpless in preventing its spread. (AP Photo / Ebrahim Noroozi)
Recorded infections have risen sharply in recent weeks as authorities eased restrictions and resumed schools for personal instruction. Dubai has reopened its airport to international travelers and launched an active campaign to raise its profile as a tourism destination amid the pandemic.
The UAE is running an aggressive testing campaign that includes over 11 million tests in a country that is home to over 9 million people.
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