More than 700 Iranians have died after ingesting toxic methanol in the false belief that it provides a cure for the Chinese coronavirus, according to figures from the country’s national coroner’s authority reproduced by Australia’s ABC News on Tuesday.
The authority released a report on Monday claiming that 728 Iranians had died as a result of alcohol poisoning between February 20 and April 7. In 2019, there were only 66 deaths from the same cause across the entire year.
The figures contradict those provided by Iranian health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, who said that 525 people had died in that same time period. Yet a ministry adviser, Dr. Hossein Hassanian, told the Associated Press that the number of victims was higher than the official government tally as many people died outside of hospitals.
“Some 200 people died outside of hospitals,” he said. “Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts here. We have to both cure the people with alcohol poisoning and also fight the coronavirus.”
Fake remedies are increasingly popular across Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the Islamic regime’s response to the virus after it attempted to downplay the severity of the situation before it became widespread.
Methanol, which is a form of pure alcohol, remains illegal in Iran because of Sharia, the Islamic law. However, various bootleggers sell the product on the black market, touting its supposed benefits. Its consumption can lead to initial symptoms of chest pain, nausea, and hyperventilation, while its delayed effects include blindness and organ damage.
“People think that alcohol causes immunity to corona while drinking alcohol does not eliminate corona in the body,” the state-run Tasnim News Agency quoted one medical expert as saying. “This misconception has caused even children to drink alcohol … which can lead to death and blindness.”
Alcohol is not the only fake treatment spreading across Iran, one of the countries most severely impacted by the coronavirus. Last month, state media promoted various herbal treatments as a cure for the virus, while an Islamic prophetic medicine healer recently prescribed camel urine to his patients suffering from symptoms.
As of Tuesday morning, Iranian medical authorities had confirmed 92,584 cases of the coronavirus and 5,877 fatalities. At least 72,439 people have already made a full recovery. Yet various officials, including the head of the Tehran city council, have questioned the legitimacy of such figures, arguing than the “actual numbers are several times higher than what is being announced by the government.”