Iranian state media issued a dire warning to its citizens on Tuesday about the severity of the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic, suggesting “millions” could die across the country if people keep ignoring medical advice.
State television journalist and medical doctor Dr. Afruz Eslami gave the warning on Tuesday citing a study by Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, which outlined three possible scenarios to the outbreak.
“If people begin to cooperate now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over,” she explained. “If they offer medium cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths.”
She warned that, should people fail to follow medical guidance, this could place excessive pressure upon the country’s already strained healthcare system, leading to millions of deaths. “If medical facilities are not sufficient, there will be four million cases, and 3.5 million people will die,” she explained.
Many of the country’s Islamic fundamentalists continue to ignore government advice to observe religious practices. On Monday evening, an angry mob stormed the courtyards of Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine so they could pray and kiss the shrines. This has caused immense concern among health officials, who have pleaded with Iran’s Shiite clergy to close them.
Eslami did not elaborate on the details and methods of the study, but making such claims on tightly-controlled Iranian state television marked a significant shift in approach from the Iranian regime, which has repeatedly tried to play down the crisis only for its severity to worsen.
Iran has so far recorded over 17,000 cases of the coronavirus, and over 1,100 deaths, making it one of the most badly affected countries in the world. At least 12 of those deaths have been of Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, while 13 others have been infected and are currently in quarantine and receiving treatment.
According to Dr. Rick Brennan, Director of Emergency Operations for the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program, the number of coronavirus deaths in Iran could be up to five times higher than the official figures as a result of limited testing. On Monday, the regime dismissed satellite photos of mass dug for victims in one of the most heavily affected areas as “fake news.”
On Tuesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious ruling banning any “unnecessary” travel throughout the country in the country. However, he insisted earlier this month that the outbreak was “not such a big tragedy” and one that the country can easily overcome by launching a health “jihad.”
“The Coronavirus is not such a big tragedy and this country has surmounted graver ones,” he declared. “However, beseeching God, seeking intercession from the Prophet and his Household, and the prayers of the pure youth and pious are very effective in repelling major tragedies.”
“I don’t want to say it’s unimportant, but let’s not exaggerate it either. The Coronavirus will affect the country briefly and leave,” he continued. “But the experience it brings, and the actions of the people and the government sectors, are like a public exercise that will remain as an achievement.”