2020 coronavirus pandemic in Iran

During the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, Iran reported its first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections on 19 February 2020 in Qom.[3] As of 27 March 2020, according to the Iranian Ministry of Health, there had been 2,378 COVID-19 deaths in Iran with more than 32,332 confirmed infections.[2] As of 26 March 2020, Iran has the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 deaths after Italy, China, United States and Spain, and the sixth-highest number of SARS-CoV-2 cases in the world.

2020 coronavirus pandemic in Iran
COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Iran (Density).svg
  Confirmed cases 10–99
  Confirmed cases 100–499
  Confirmed cases 500–999
  Confirmed cases 1000–9999
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationIran
First outbreakWuhan, China (initial reports)[1]
Index caseQom
Arrival date19 February 2020
(1 month, 1 week and 2 days ago)
Confirmed cases32,332[2]
Recovered11,133[2]
Deaths
2,378[2]
Official website
behdasht.gov.ir

The virus may have been brought to the country by a merchant from Qom who had travelled to China.[4] Iran became a centre of the spread of the virus in the Middle East,[5][4] with more than ten countries tracing their cases back to Iran by 28 February.[4] Government's actions include cancellation of public events and Friday prayers, closure of schools, universities, shopping centres and bazaars as well as holy shrines, and banning of festival celebrations.[6][7] Economic measures were also announced to help families and businesses. The government has rejected plans to quarantine entire cities and areas, and heavy traffic between cities continued ahead of Nowruz despite the government's intention to limit travel. The government later announced a ban on travel between cities following an increase in number of new cases.[8][7]

Some non-Iranian-government sources estimates of the numbers of COVID-19 deaths are much higher than official values.[9][10][11] The Iranian government has also been accused of cover-ups, censorship and mismanagement.[12][13][14][4] However, the World Health Organisation says that it has not seen problems with Iran's reported figures.[15]

Multiple Iranian government ministers and senior officials have been diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 positive, as well as 23 members of the Iranian Parliament (around 8% of all MPs).[16] At least 12 sitting or former Iranian politicians and officials had died from the virus by 17 March 2020.[6] Notable individuals reported to have died from COVID-19 include Hadi Khosroshahi,[17] Mohammad Mirmohammadi, Hossein Sheikholeslam, Fatemeh Rahbar, Reza Mohammadi Langroudi,[18] Mohammad-Reza Rahchamani,[19] Nasser Shabani,[20] Hashem Bathaie Golpayegani,[21] and Hamid Kahram.[22][23]

Timeline

COVID-19 cases in Iran  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Date
#Tested
# of deaths
2020-02-19
2(n.a.)
2020-02-20
5(+150%)
2020-02-21
18(+260%)
2020-02-22
29(+61%)
2020-02-23
43(+48%)
2020-02-24
64(+49%)
2020-02-25
95(+48%)
2020-02-26
139(+46%)
2020-02-27
245(+76%)
2020-02-28
388(+58%)
2020-02-29
593(+53%)
2020-03-01
978(+65%)
2020-03-02
1,501(+53%)
2020-03-03
2,336(+56%)
2020-03-04
2,922(+25%)
2020-03-05
3,513(+20%) 107(+15)
2020-03-06
4,747(+35%) 124(+17)
2020-03-07
5,823(+23%) 145(+21)
2020-03-08
6,566(+13%) 194(+49)
2020-03-09
7,161(+9.1%) 237(+43)
2020-03-10
8,042(+12%) 291(+54)
2020-03-11
9,000(+12%) 354(+63)
2020-03-12
10,075(+10%) 429(+75)
2020-03-13
11,364(+13%) 514(+85)
2020-03-14
12,729(+12%) 611(+97)
2020-03-15
13,938(+9.5%) 724(+113)
2020-03-16
14,991(+7.6%) 853(+129)
2020-03-17
16,169(+7.9%) 988(+135)
2020-03-18
17,361(+7.3%) 1,135(+147)
2020-03-19
18,407(+6.0%) 1,284(+149)
2020-03-20
19,644(+6.7%) 1,433(+149)
2020-03-21
20,610(+4.9%) 1,556(+123)
2020-03-22
21,638(+5.0%) 1,685(+129)
2020-03-23
23,049(+6.5%) 1,812(+127)
2020-03-24
24,811(+7.6%) 1,934(+122)
2020-03-25
27,077(+9.1%) 2,077(+143)
2020-03-26
29,406(+8.6%) 2,234(+157)
2020-03-27
32,332(+10%) 2,378(+144)
2020-03-28
35,408(+9.5%) 2,517(+139)
Sources: Ministry of Health and Medical Education

February 2020

  • 19 February: 2 people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Qom.[3] Later that day, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education(MOHME) stated that both had died.[24]
  • 20 February: 3 new cases were reported by the Ministry of Health. Two of them were from the city of Qom and one from Arak.[25]
  • 21 February: 13 new cases were reported. Seven cases are from Qom, 4 from Tehran, and 2 from Gilan Province. Two more people in Iran died from COVID-19.[26]
  • 22 February: the Ministry of Health reported 10 more infected cases bringing the total to 29 and two more deaths bringing the total to eight. Eight of the new cases were from the city of Qom and two from Tehran.[27] The following day Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that one of those who died was a merchant from Qom who traveled regularly using indirect flights between China and Iran after direct flights were suspended between the two countries, and may have brought the virus from China.[28]
  • 23 February: the confirmed cases count rose to 43 over four cities and the COVID-19 death toll to eight.[29]
  • 24 February: Iran's Deputy Minister of Health, Dr.Iraj Harirchi, said that twelve people had died and up to 61 had been infected with the new coronavirus. Parliamentarian Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani's claimed that 50 people had died in Qom from COVID-19, which Harirchi denied.[9] At the press conference, Harirchi coughed and sweated.[30]
  • 25 February: Dr. Iraj Harirchi tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection.[30] The Iranian government first told Iranian citizens that the U.S. had "hyped COVID-19 to suppress turnout" during its government elections, and that it would "punish anyone spreading rumors about a serious epidemic."[31][32][33] A closed parliamentary session including Health Minister Saeed Namaki and Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani was held. Body temperatures were tested prior to the meeting and three members of parliament, including Amirabadi Farahani, were requested to excuse themselves from the session and self-quarantine. All three attended the session. Amirabadi Farahani later spoke with journalists and gave television interviews wearing a mask and pair of gloves.[34] Mahmoud Sadeghi, an MP from Tehran, also tested positive for the virus.[35][23]
  • 26 February: The Ministry of Health reported 44 more new confirmed cases and 4 new deaths.[36][better source needed]
 
A patient receiving treatment in a hospital in Tehran
  • 27 February: The Ministry of Health reported 126 more new confirmed cases and 7 new deaths.[37] Iran's Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, was diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as the Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, Mojtaba Zolnour.[23][38][39] Iran's First Ambassador to the Vatican, Hadi Khosroshahi, died from COVID-19 infection in Qom.[23]
  • 28 February: the Ministry of Health reported 143 more new confirmed cases and 8 new deaths.[40]
  • 29 February: the Ministry of Health reported 205 more new confirmed cases and 9 new deaths. He also reported that 50 more people have recovered.[41]

March 2020

 
Number of cases (blue) and number of deaths (red) on a logarithmic scale.
  • 1 March: the Ministry of Health reported 385 more new confirmed cases and 11 new deaths. He also reported that 52 more people have recovered, bringing the total number to 175.[42]
  • 2 March: the Ministry of Health reported 523 more new confirmed cases and 12 new deaths. They also reported that 116 more people have recovered, bringing the total number to 291.[43] Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council which advises the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was reported to have died of the disease.[44]
  • 3 March: the Ministry of Health reported 835 more new confirmed cases and 11 new deaths.[45] 23 members of the Iranian Parliament were reported to have been infected.[16] More than 54,000 prisoners were temporarily released to prevent the spread of coronavirus.[46] The head of emergency medical services, Pirhossein Kolivand, was diagnosed with the disease.[47]
  • 4 March: the Ministry of Health reported 586 more new confirmed cases and 15 new deaths. They also reported that 552 people have recovered so far.[48]
  • 5 March: The Ministry of Health reported 591 more new confirmed cases and 15 new deaths. They also reported that 739 people had recovered so far.[49] Mohammad Sadr [fa], a member of the Expediency Council, had reportedly been infected with coronavirus.[50] Akbar Dehghan (head of Qom seminary interpretation staff), Ayatollah Mohsen Habibi (a member of the Supreme Council of Tehran's Seminaries),[18] Former Ambassador to Syria Hossein Sheikholeslam died from the disease. Sheikholeslam was also an advisor to the foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and one of the leaders of the group which took hostage diplomats and employees of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.[51] Subsequently, all government officials were forbidden from international travel, and parliament was indefinitely suspended.[52]
 
Disinfection of Piroozi, Tehran
  • 6 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1234 more new confirmed cases and 17 new deaths. They also reported that 913 people had recovered so far.
  • 7 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1076 more new confirmed cases and 21 new deaths. Elected Member of Parliament Fatemeh Rahbar died due to coronavirus.[53] Ayatollah Reza Mohammadi Langroudi also died from the virus.[18]
  • 8 March: the Ministry of Health reported 743 more new confirmed cases and 49 new deaths. They also reported that 2134 people had recovered so far.
  • 9 March: the Ministry of Health reported 595 more new confirmed cases and 43 new deaths. They also reported that another 260 people had recovered. Esmail Najjar [fa], the chief of Iran's Crisis Management Organization, was infected with coronavirus.[54] Former MP Mohammad-Reza Rahchamani died from the virus.[19] About 70,000 prisoners were temporarily released as coronavirus cases surge.[55] Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei decided to cancel his Persian New Year speech which took place every year at the Imam Reza shrine, Mashhad.[56] Farhad Tazari, the former head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Political Bureau, also died of coronavirus.[57]
  • 10 March: the Ministry of Health reported 881 more new confirmed cases and 54 new deaths. They also reported that another 337 people had recovered. The death toll rose to 291.[58]
  • 11 March: The Ministry of Health reported 958 more new confirmed cases and 63 new deaths. They also reported that a total of 2,959 patients had recovered so far. Hassan Rouhani, Iran's President, has assumed the chairmanship of the national taskforce on combatting the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, replacing the Health Minister at the request of lawmakers.[59] Iran's First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri was infected with the virus.[60] Other two sick officials were Ali Asghar Mounesan, minister of cultural heritage, handicrafts and tourism, and Reza Rahmani, minister of industry, mines and business.[61][62]
 
People in Shiraz wearing facemasks next to a closed market
  • 12 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,075 more new confirmed cases and 75 new deaths. They also reported that 3,276 people had recovered so far. Member of Expediency Discernment Council Ali Akbar Velayati was infected with the virus.[63] Iran requested an emergency load of US$5 billion from the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s to help combat the virus outbreak.[64] Khamenei said that the virus outbreak may be a "biological attack" on Iran.[65]
  • 13 March: The Ministry of Health reported 1,289 more new confirmed cases and 85 new deaths. They also reported that 3,529 people had recovered so far. Nasser Shabani, a senior commander of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has died from the virus.[20]
  • 14 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,365 more new confirmed cases and 97 new deaths. They also reported that 4,339 people had recovered so far. Minoo Mohraz, a member of committee to combat Coronavirus, tested positive for the virus.[66]
  • 15 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,209 more new confirmed cases and 113 new deaths. They also reported that 4,590 people had recovered so far. Hashem Bathaie Golpayegani, a member of Assembly of Experts, tested positive for the virus.[67][68]
  • 16 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,053 more new confirmed cases and 129 new deaths. They also reported that 4,996 people had recovered so far. Hashem Bathaie Golpayegani and economist Fariborz Raisdana died from the virus.[21]
  • 17 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,178 more new confirmed cases and 135 new deaths. They also reported that 5,389 people had recovered so far. Sharif University published a study over number of possible casualties. Three scenarios were announced: If people cooperate now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over, if they offer medium cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths. But if people fail to follow any guidance, it could collapse Iran's already strained medical system and there will be 4 million cases and 3.5 million deaths.[69] Traditional Persian fire festival Chaharshanbe Suri were also banned by the government.[70] About 85,000 prisoners were temporarily released due to the coronavirus, and two days later the government announced plans to pardon 11,000 prisoners, including those charged with political crimes.[71][72]
  • 18 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,192 more new confirmed cases and 147 new deaths. They also reported that 5,710 people had recovered so far.
  • 19 March: the Ministry of Health reported 1,046 more new confirmed cases and 149 new deaths. Former MP Hamid Kahram died from the coronavirus.[22]
  • On 20 March, 1,237 new infections and 149 deaths were reported. Media reports suggested that heavy traffic continued for the Nowruz holiday. A government minister had warned that the crisis might continue for six months if the disease is not brought under control.[73]
  • On 24 March, a new peak of 1,762 new cases were announced with 122 deaths reported. President Rouhani said that the number of patients admitted to hospitals in different provinces as well as deaths due to the virus had decreased, which he took to be promising.[74] Médecins Sans Frontières said that a team they sent to Iran to help in the outbreak had been ordered to leave the country.[75] Iran had accused them of being spies.[76]
  • On 25 March, with new cases surpassing 2,000 for the first time, the government warned of a "second wave" of infection.[77]
  • On 26 March, Iranian Health Ministry announced that 2,389 more people had become infected, with 157 new deaths.[78]
  • On 27 March, daily new cases had increased to 2,926 with 144 deaths.[79] Iranian media reported that nearly 500 people had died and over a thousand became ill due to methanol poisoning in the belief that drinking the alcohol can kill the virus in the body.[80]
  • The number of new cases exceeded 3,000 for the first time (3,076) on 28 March, with 139 reported new deaths.[81]

Statistics

Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection cases and COVID-19 deaths in Iran ()

Date New
[a]
N. sum
[b]
Deaths D. sum Source
19 Feb 2020 2 2 2 2 [3][24]
20 Feb 2020 3 5 0 2 [25]
21 Feb 2020 13 18 2 4 [26]
22 Feb 2020 10 28 2 6 [27]
23 Feb 2020 15 43 2 8 [82]
24 Feb 2020 18 61 4 12 [9]
25 Feb 2020 34 95[c] 4 16 [84]
26 Feb 2020 44 139 3 19 [85]
27 Feb 2020 106 245 7 26 [86]
28 Feb 2020 143 388 8 34 [40]
29 Feb 2020 205 593 9 43 [87][88]
1 Mar 2020 385 978 11 54 [89]
2 Mar 2020 523 1501 12 66 [42]
3 Mar 2020 835 2336 11 77 [90]
4 Mar 2020 586 2922 15 92 [91]
5 Mar 2020 591 3513 15 107 [92]
6 Mar 2020 1234 4747 17 124 [93]
7 Mar 2020 1076 5823 21 145 [94]
8 Mar 2020 743 6566 49 194 [95]
9 Mar 2020 595 7161 43 237 [96]
10 Mar 2020 881 8042 54 291 [97]
11 Mar 2020 958 9000 63 354 [98]
12 Mar 2020 1075 10075 75 429 [99]
13 Mar 2020 1289 11364 85 514 [100]
14 Mar 2020 1365 12729 97 611 [101]
15 Mar 2020 1209 13938 113 724 [102]
16 Mar 2020 1053 14991 129 853 [103]
17 Mar 2020 1178 16169 135 988
18 Mar 2020 1192 17361 147 1135
19 Mar 2020 1046 18407 149 1284
20 Mar 2020 1237 19644 149 1433
21 Mar 2020 966 20610 123 1556
22 Mar 2020 1028 21638 129 1685
23 Mar 2020 1411 23049 127 1812 [104]
24 Mar 2020 1762 24811 123 1934 [105]
25 Mar 2020 2206 27017 143 2077 [106]
26 Mar 2020 2389 29406 157 2234 [107]
27 Mar 2020 2926 32332 144 2378 [108]
28 Mar 2020 3076 35408 139 2517 [109]
Notes:
  1. ^ New SARS-CoV-2 lab-confirmed infections
  2. ^ Total number of SARS-CoV-2 lab-confirmed infections
  3. ^ The suspected number of SARS-CoV-2 cases in Iran was announced as 900 on 25 February.[83]

New COVID-19 cases in Iran by province ()

Date Region 1 Region 2 Region 3 Region 4 Region 5 Confirmed cases Deaths
Qom Teh Maz Alb Sem Gol Qaz Esf Frs Hor Koh Cha Bus Gil Ard Azs Azg Kur Zan Mar Ham Khz Krs Lor Ilm Khr Sis Yaz Khs Ker Khn New Total New Total Sources
2020/02/19 2 2 2 2 2
2020/02/20 2 1 3 5 2
2020/02/21 7 4 2 13 18 2 4
2020/02/22 8 2 10 28 2 6
2020/02/23 7 4 1 2 1 15 43 2 8 [110]
2020/02/24 8 3 2 2 2 1 18 61 4 12 [111]
2020/02/25 16 8 2 2 1 1 2 1 34 95 3 15 [84]
2020/02/26 15 4 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 3 1 1 2 44 139 4 19 [112]
2020/02/27 7 38 7 3 3 8 23 5 2 1 1 1 2 3 1 1 106 245 7 26 [86]
2020/02/28 16 64 9 3 2 2 2 10 25 1 4 2 3 143 388 8 34 [40]
2020/02/29 21 52 12 8 4 22 6 12 8 17 3 6 5 18 4 1 1 4 1 205 593 9 43 [88]
2020/03/01 30 170 11 31 3 13 8 2 28 44 3 9 2 8 1 17 2 2 2 385 978 11 54 [89]
2020/03/02 N/A 523 1501 11 54 [42]
2020/03/03 N/A 835 2336 11 77 [90]
2020/03/04 101 253 9 19 8 9 25 14 1 35 9 4 6 8 27 15 5 7 8 8 14 1 586 2922 15 92 [91][113]
2020/03/05 32 56 50 61 22 4 31 118 19 2 8 3 80 17 10 5 6 7 31 6 1 11 53 5 9 2 591 3513 15 107 [92][114]
2020/03/06 137 61 180 129 54 67 65 150 13 6 4 5 2 91 11 10 1 24 35 48 7 5 50 2 2 50 3 7 12 1234 4747 17 124 [93][115]
2020/03/07 145 126 305 3 24 58 2 96 14 11 2 3 70 1 2 22 2 2 37 11 1 4 27 2 46 13 24 15 8 1076 5823 21 145 [94][116]
2020/03/08 17 266 14 2 37 13 29 80 9 5 3 5 2 2 9 30 7 19 1 70 26 5 2 37 19 6 26 1 1 743 6566 49 194 [95][117]
2020/03/09 27 140 13 45 40 37 29 17 5 1 28 22 22 29 3 15 54 4 11 7 16 29 3 -7 -5 10 595 7161 43 237 [96][118]
2020/03/10 39 169 253 32 1 4 10 17 18 17 2 11 7 19 17 4 12 11 27 17 37 7 25 25 39 6 37 14 4 881 8042 54 291 [97][119]
2020/03/11 53 256 32 45 63 9 27 170 19 10 1 5 1 29 27 6 22 31 7 17 8 9 6 34 4 23 15 18 11 958 9000 63 354 [98][120]
2020/03/12 42 303 79 74 40 25 42 4 29 15 11 3 84 14 7 19 9 17 88 12 31 20 25 7 29 6 21 12 7 1075 10075 75 429 [99][121]
2020/03/13 42 303 192 6 38 21 12 110 33 4 71 15 97 25 9 20 48 10 15 15 25 8 110 2 46 12 1289 11364 85 514 [100][122]
2020/03/14 32 347 17 134 47 47 155 11 7 113 33 59 31 5 31 115 7 48 8 2 6 30 2 73 4 1 1365 12729 97 611 [101][123]
2020/03/15 84 251 72 67 41 25 22 126 9 7 1 6 43 36 18 27 32 11 32 13 52 18 143 6 36 18 7 6 1209 13938 113 724 [102][124]
2020/03/16 19 200 96 49 34 42 40 118 43 16 5 3 4 18 30 35 31 31 15 14 12 53 16 2 11 51 7 13 45 1053 14991 129 853 [103][125]
2020/03/17 29 273 59 116 33 30 26 75 31 6 2 4 45 19 78 34 2 25 47 6 25 14 35 7 63 11 49 12 19 3 1178 16169 135 988 [126]
2020/03/18 22 213 61 76 60 20 53 162 60 12 13 4 4 21 10 84 42 22 20 23 13 28 7 39 10 30 6 45 21 11 1192 17361 147 1135 [127]
2020/03/19 31 137 58 61 16 9 47 108 21 5 15 3 8 73 16 58 26 11 26 47 3 22 23 37 8 50 18 69 5 14 21 1046 18407 149 1284 [128]
2020/03/20 36 220 84 95 52 15 8 145 50 17 1 3 1 99 35 55 27 15 44 17 5 10 22 9 20 48 8 49 18 12 17 1237 19644 149 1433
2020/03/21 20 232 28 55 6 59 101 22 12 2 57 6 72 14 7 35 5 31 27 34 18 57 5 52 8 1 966 20610 123 1556 [129]
2020/03/22 17 249 36 60 10 29 87 26 2 2 38 19 57 28 16 28 36 7 22 19 33 17 42 15 84 15 8 26 1028 21638 129 1685 [130]
Total 1178 5098 1700 1177 645 391 669 1979 505 148 73 68 55 1191 289 813 395 238 394 882 175 444 243 476 183 858 134 725 178 169 165 N/A 21638 N/A 1685
Notes:


Government response

 
Spokesperson of the Government Ali Rabiei and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi at a press conference. Hours after the conference, it was announced that Harirchi himself tested positive for the virus

On 22 February 2020, the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, announced the cancellation of all concerts and other cultural events for one week.[131] The Ministry of Health and Medical Education also announced the closure of universities, higher educational institutions and schools in several cities and provinces.[132] The Ministry of Sports and Youth took steps to cancel sporting events, including football matches.[133] The Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics created the first COVID-19 test kit on 23 February.[134] The Management and Planning Organization announced the government has allocated 5 trillion rials to combat the virus.[135] President Hassan Rouhani ordered the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development to make decisions about public commuting and the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade to build the required medical equipment.[136]

President Rouhani, however, said on 26 February 2020 that there are no plans to quarantine areas affected by the outbreak, and only individuals would be quarantined.[8] Nevertheless, Iran's Health Ministry said that Friday prayers will not be held in Tehran and areas affected by the outbreak that week.[137]

On 20 February, according to a letter of Iran's health ministry to the governor of Qom, a request was made to "limit the number of pilgrims at the Fatima Masumeh Shrine and other religious sites".[5] However, Shia shrines in Qom remained open for pilgrims to congregate.[138] The head of Fatima Masumeh shrine encouraged pilgrims to visit the shrine on 27 February: "We consider this holy shrine to be a place of healing."[139]

The Iranian judiciary spokesman, Gholam Hossein Ismaili said that "he was activating a range of preventive measures including cutting the number of people being sent to jail and allowing some inmates out on temporary early release."[140]

On 26 February, Iranian Cyber Police announced that to stop spreading photos and videos which are untrue and fake on coronavirus, notices were given to 118 people and 24 others were arrested.[141] These indictments were considered vague by Article 19,[142] and the government's attempt to control the information flow.[citation needed]

Administrative and Recruitment Affairs Organization ruled that telecommuting of government employees would be permissible.[143] Corona National Anti-Virus Headquarters ordered the academic organizations to launch learning management systems.[144]

On 2 March 2020, the government announced plans to mobilise 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to combat the spread of the virus, as well as deploying drones and water cannon to disinfect streets.[145] The government created an application and a website to combat the outbreak.[146]

As confirmed cases mounted, Iran's health minister announced on 5 March 2020 that checkpoints would be placed between cities to limit travel, and schools and universities closed until the start of the holiday for Persian new year Nowruz on 20 March 2020. Citizens were also advised to avoid using banknotes.[147] Major General Salami, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, stated "Iran is currently engaged in biological warfare and will definitely win the war".[148] The government has indicated that it may use force to limit travel between cities.[149]

On 9 March 2020, around 70,000 prisoners were temporarily released from prisons due to the outbreak ostensibly to limit the further spread of the disease within prisons.[150] 85,000 prisoners including political prisoners were released in total by 17 March 2020.[151]

On 13 March 2020, plan to clear streets, shops and public places in Iran by the Revolutionary Guards was announced. In addition, 1,000 fixed and mobile detection clinics would be set up, the army would work alongside medical staff as well as producing face masks and gloves, and army beds would be made available for patients.[152] Iranian football player Mohammad Mokhtari who on 10 March had posted on Instagram, criticising the authorities’ handling of the coronavirus outbreak was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.[153] On 14 March, he was released after offering expressions of regret.[154]

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani wrote public letter to world leaders asking for help, saying that his country doesn't have access to international markets due to the United States sanctions against Iran.[155]

On 16 March 2020, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Fatima Masumeh Shrine, Jamkaran Mosque in Qom, and Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad were closed.[156] Following this announcement, some people protested to enter the shrine but they were driven out of the shrine by servants and the doors were closed again.[157][158]

On 17 March the government warned that "millions" might die from the coronavirus if people keep ignoring health guidelines and continue traveling. 90% of the 18,000 coronavirus cases in the Middle East have taken place in Iran; 988 people have died in the country.[159][160]

The head of the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi, said on 18 March that 22 million Iranians had been screened and that the condition of a million and a half is being monitored. He also said the numbers given by the Health Ministry are those of confirmed cases, adding, "The reality is the real numbers are higher than the [reported] numbers." [161]

On 23 March 2020, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the US created "a special version" of the virus that was affecting the country.[162]

On 24 March, President Rouhani announced that the half of all government employees would work remotely at home.[163]

On 25 March 2020, the government warned that Iran may be facing a second wave of coronavirus outbreak because people were ignoring guidance on travelling during the Nowruz holidays, and banned all new trips between cities.[164]

On 28 March 2020, President Rouhani announced that 20% of the country's annual budget would be allocated to fight the virus.[165]

International spread and travel restrictions

February 2020

 
World countries with COVID-19 cases linked to Iranian clusters

On 20 February, a SARS-CoV-2 confirmed case was reported for a woman in her 30s who had arrived in Canada from Iran.[166] On 25 February, a woman in her 60s, and the next day her husband, who was also in his 60s, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.[167]

On 21 February, Lebanon confirmed the first COVID-19 case, a 45-year-old woman travelling from Qom, Iran was admitted to a hospital in Beirut.[168][169]

On 23 February, Georgia suspended flights to and from Iran.[170] On the same day, Pakistan,[171] Turkey,[172] Afghanistan, and Armenia closed their land borders with Iran.[173] Afghanistan stopped all forms of travel to and from Iran with three suspected cases reported, while Turkey stopped all incoming flights from Iran.[174][175]

On 24 February, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Tajikistan,[176] restricted and suspended all flights from and to Iran.[177][178] The citizens of the United Arab Emirates were banned from traveling to Iran.[179] Armenia also suspended flights to Iran but scheduled flights to repatriate its citizens from Iran.[180] Neighbouring countries Kuwait, Iraq and Bahrain announced that it recorded their first coronavirus cases from people who came from Iran.[181] According to the report of Oman's Health Ministry, there are two Omani women who visited Iran and now infected with the coronavirus.[178]

On 26 February, Pakistan announced two persons had been diagnosed with COVID-19, one of them known to have visited Iran.[182]Georgia confirmed the first COVID-19 case, a 50-year-old Georgian man who returned from Iran.[183] China confirmed a man in Zhongwei, Ningxia, who returned from Iran, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.[184] Kazakhstan announced a plan to stop flights to and from Iran starting 1 March 2020.[185]

On 27 February, Estonia confirmed the first COVID-19 case, an Iranian citizen living in Estonia who returned from Iran.[186] Kuwait confirmed 43 cases of COVID-19, all of them involved people who had travelled to Iran in February.[187] Germany, Norway, Sweden and Spain also confirmed new cases involving individuals with previous travels to Iran.[188][189][190][191][192][193]Russia announced that it will limit flights to and from Iran except for those operated by Aeroflot and Mahan Air, and will also stop issuing visas to Iranian citizens starting 28 February 2020.[194]

On 28 February, New Zealand and Belarus reported their first cases of COVID-19, both involving people who had traveled from Iran.[195][196] New Zealand announced temporary restrictions on people travelling from Iran.[197] Malaysia set up separate immigration lanes for travellers from countries with major COVID-19 outbreaks including Iran.[198] The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upgraded the status of Iran to level 3 (avoid non-essential travels due to widespread community transmission).[199]

On 29 February, Australia announced a ban on foreigners arriving directly from Iran, and required them to stay in a third country for 14 days before entering Australia. A woman returning from Iran had also tested positive for the virus.[200] Azerbaijan later closed its border with Iran as two Azeri citizens were confirmed to have been infected in Iran.[201] In Qatar, the first infection in a citizen evacuated from Iran was reported.[202]

March 2020

 
World Health Organization representatives holding joint meeting with Tehran administrators

On 1 March 2020, Armenia announced its first case of coronavirus infection, identified in a man who had returned from Iran.[203]

On 2 March 2020, Sweden announced that it had suspended flights operated by Iran Air, the first country to ban flights by the airline.[204]

On 4 March 2020, Thailand declared that people travelling from Iran must be quarantined for 14 days after arriving with no exception.[205] Iraq and Azerbaijan stopped letting trucks and imports coming from Iran to enter this country, earlier on 29 February Azerbaijan had closed its borders to the people coming from Iran.[206]

On 5 March, India Delhi confirmed a case of a citizen who recently travelled to Iran. Thailand announced the 46th and 47th confirmed cases of the country, a 22-year-old Chinese and 20-year-old Thai, who had recently travelled to Iran.[207]

On 6 March 2020, Russia announced that it will temporary ban visitors arriving from Iran starting 7 March 2020.[208]

On 9 March 2020, Iran has been recognized as a point of spreading coronavirus to other countries. All of Iran's neighboring states have put some kind of limitations or closed their borders with Iran.[209][210]

Shanghai confirmed four imported cases from Iran.[211][212] The Chinese province of Gansu also confirmed 25 imported cases from Iran, who had travelled in the charters.[213][214][215][216][217][218][219]

Other international reactions

One Dubai-based newspaper wrongly claimed in a front-page headline that all cases of the new coronavirus in the region came from the Islamic Republic. That would be convenient for the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms home to Dubai whose 13 coronavirus cases predominantly trace back to China.[220]

Brian Hook, the US State Department's envoy on Iran, said that the Iranian government lied "and their media was instructed not to report on the coronavirus outbreak as it rapidly spread from the religious city of Qom to other cities".[4]

The resistance units of the main opposition MEK accused the Iranian government of covering up the true death toll, and estimated the death count to be 1,200 in early March, ten times that of the official census.[221] It was echoed by the People's Mujahedin of Iran, which also accused the government of suppressing death count.[11]

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a number of accusation against Khamenei in March, saying that Khamanei had lied about the outbreak in Iran and continued to keep Mahan Air flying to and from China in February, spreading the virus and putting lives at risk, as well as jailing those who spoke out, and that funds for coronavirus had been stolen by officials.[222][223][224]

Humanitarian assistance

The UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) has flown aid into Iran. In late February, the first cargo plane with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) arrived, another on 3 March and a third aircraft on 16 March. On 3 March, the United Arab Emirates sent an aircraft with medical supplies and five WHO experts. Uzbekistan sent a plane on 16 March.[225]

While the US sanctions legally allow humanitarian products to be sold to Iran, due to their nature, very few banks are willing to risk sanctions by trading with Iran.[226][227] This has severely limited the medical supplies available to the Iranian public health system in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. One right wing lobby group in the United States, United Against Nuclear Iran, has argued to stop all global humanitarian trade with Iran and prevent medical supplies from reaching the country.[228]

The UK, Pakistan, China, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and experts are pressing the US to ease sanctions on Iran to help it fight the growing coronavirus outbreak.[229][230][231][232][233][234]

The fifth batch of testing kits was dispatched to Iran by the World Health Organization on 28 February.[235] The group of Chinese medical experts with a new pack of humanitarian aid entered Iran on 29 February.[235] The Chinese Defense Ministry announced on 20 March that test kits, protective suits and medical masks provided by the People's Liberation Army were handed to the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.[236]

On 23 March 2020, the European Union pledged €20m in humanitarian assistance to the Gulf nation. The union said that it was committed to help Iran combat the coronavirus pandemic and informed that it would further support its plea for IMF financial help.[237]

Non-government estimates

In a preprint paper pending for review on medRxiv journal, Tuite et al. estimated that as of 25 February, c. 18,300 infections (95% confidence interval: 3,770–53,470; best-case scenario: 380–5,320 cases) could have occurred in Iran, based on known exported case counts and air travel links between Iran and other countries, the latter compiled from the data in the past. They concluded that Iran is likely to experience an "epidemic of significant size", while lack of identified cases in countries with close travel ties to Iran are because the cases are "likely being missed, rather than being truly absent".[238]

The government of Iran had insisted that there was no confirmed COVID-19 in Iran before 19 February 2020, when the first cases were announced.[239][240] However, a letter claimed to be[weasel words] from the Ministry of Health to the office of the President that circulated on social media[attribution needed] suggests that the Iranian authorities were aware of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases and deaths many days[weasel words] before the official announcement. Government officials said that the letter was a fake.[241][242] Another letter also circulated on social media;[attribution needed] it was signed by interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and sent to Health Minister Saeed Namaki to request that the announcement of coronavirus outbreak be delayed[by whom?] until after the parliamentary election to avoid a low turnout of voters.[dubious ] The government has also denied this claim.[243]

On 9 March, Graeme Wood stated that he deems the official count "certainly an undercount", and provided alternative estimates which he calls "doomsday figures".[244]

World Health Organization verification

On 28 February 2020, Michael Ryan, chief of the WHO health emergencies programme told the press that the mortality rate in Iran indicated its outbreak might be more widespread than realised.[245]

On 2 March 2020, The World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom said in an interview with CNBC that the WHO has its own mechanism for checking national health authorities' statistics and did not see problems with the official Iranian government SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 counts.[246]

On 17 March 2020, WHO regional emergency director Rick Brennan said the number of cases reported in Iran could represent only about 20% of the real numbers because testing was restricted to severe cases, as is the case even in some wealthy European countries. He added "We’ve said the weakest link in their chain is the data. They are rapidly increasing their ability to test and so the numbers will go up... [t]here’s a great commitment and they are taking it seriously from the highest level of government".[247]

Other sources

Members of parliament

Masoud Pezeshkian, the First Deputy of the Parliament of Iran, claimed on 3 March 2020 that the figures reported by Iran's health ministry are "not real".[248]Member of parliament for Qom Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani claimed on 24 February 2020 that COVID-19 had arrived in Qom three weeks prior, in early February, that the first death had occurred on 13 February but was not announced by officials, and that the true number of COVID-19 deaths in Qom was 50.[9][249] Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi denied giving false figures, and stated that the death count was 12 with a total of 66 infections.[250]

Anonymous sources reported by media

On 28 February 2020 BBC reported 210 deaths have occurred in Iran, citing "sources in the country's health system", while the official number for the day was 34.[245] Kianush Jahanpur, the spokesman for the health ministry rejected the BBC report in a tweet.[10]

On 12 March, The Economist wrote "[s]ome in the government think the actual number of cases is closer to 100,000", while the official count of infected people was about 9,000.[251]

On 22 March, Radio Farda reported that "based on the statements made by local officials in various parts of Iran", around 2,372 have died, while the official death toll reached 1,556.[252] Radio Farda also said on 21 March that since Iran's government statistics only include those who had tested positive for the disease, due to a lack of test kits, deaths may be registered as respiratory complications or influenza. They put their estimate of the number of infections at 16,000 in Tehran alone when the official figure given was 20,610 for the whole country on that date.[253]

Satellite imagery from Qom cemetery

 
Burial site at Qom's Behesht Masoumeh Cemetery

On 12 March, The Washington Post published satellite images and analysis provided by Maxar Technologies, saying that vast burial pits were being excavated near Qom, said to be used to accommodate the potentially increasing number of victims in the city. The digging of the new section of burial pits began on 21 February, only two days after the government announced their first cases of COVID-19, and then rapidly expanded. The number of fresh graves suggests preparation for a far larger number of deaths.[254] Qom municipality official responsible for the city's burial sites said "the graves had been planned before the outbreak as part of usual procedures in the cemetery", and some observers pointed that overall length of the purported 100 yards of cannot accommodate more than about 75-100 graves.[255]

See also

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