Around 10,000 Iranian health workers have tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus, the regime-aligned Iranian Labour News Agency quoted the country’s deputy health minister as saying on Thursday.
With health services stretched to the limit, Iran is the worst affected country in the Middle East by the worldwide pandemic, reporting around 130,000 cases and 7,250 deaths. Approximately 7.7 percent of the infected are health workers, at least 100 of whom died in the month of April. No further details of infections among health workers were provided.
On Thursday, Health Minister Saeed Namaki appealed to his countrymen to refrain from traveling during the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday later this month to avoid another spike in the number of infections. The rules will be particularly difficult to maintain given that so many Iranians, especially the most devout, have long held the tradition of traveling to different cities to mark the end of Ramadan.
“I am urging you not to travel during the Eid. Definitely, such trips mean new cases of infection. People should not travel to and from those high-risk red areas,” Namaki said. “Some 90% of the population in many areas has not yet contracted the disease. In the case of a new outbreak, it will be very difficult for me and my colleagues to control it.”
A study from the Iranian parliament’s research center suggested that the real number of infections and deaths could be double the official tally, making it one of the hardest-hit countries worldwide. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) announced last week that by their estimates, more than 41,000 people have died, close to four times the official figure.
Since late April, the Iranian regime has started relaxing some lockdown restrictions in order to prevent excessive damage to the country’s economy, which has already suffered a major contraction in recent years after President Donald Trump reimposed economic sanctions after pulling out of the Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
As well as the reopening of certain economic sectors, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also allowed for the reopening of mosques since the beginning of May to mark the holy month of Ramadan. Children also began returning to school this week.
Yet as a result of these measures, Iranian authorities recently admitted that the country is already seeing a resurgence in the number of cases. However, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour appeared to blame the rise on a “change of attitude” among certain parts of the population.
“We are witnessing a rising trend in the past three or four days, which is significant,” Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference earlier this month. “[This rise] is based on our behavior, especially in the past two weeks, considering that a part of society has apparently had a change of attitude.”