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Coronavirus Pandemic: An Iranian Chronology, March 2021

March 31, 2021
Pouyan Khoshhal
24 min read
Coronavirus Pandemic: An Iranian Chronology, March 2021

February 26 - March 4, 2021:

Coronavirus vaccination in Iran started late and is progressing at a slow pace. The start of the new Iranian calendar year, a time when Iranians traditionally travel on a massive scale, is just around the corner. But would-be vacationers must wait for the National Coronavirus Taskforce to determine which destinations are open to travelers, and under which restrictions.

Meanwhile more cases of the highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom are being reported from various parts of Iran. The number of fatalities from this new strain continues to rise across the board. But no province has been as hard-hit as Khuzestan. All 11 cities on red alert in Iran are located in this province where, on average, around 2,000 new cases of infection are being confirmed every day.

Travel Restrictions During Iranian New Year

A 13-day holiday will get under way on March 21, the Spring Equinox, when the new Iranian calendar year begins. During this period Iranians traditionally visit each other and travel around the country to celebrate Nowruz, literally the “New Day”.

This year, of course, has not been a normal year. Many people who have had to deal with restrictions for a full year feel the need to travel more than ever. But the increasing spread of the new coronavirus variant has thrown this into doubt. Iranian officials still insist that travel to and from cities on “red” and “orange” alerts is banned, and travel between other cities is only permitted according to local health protocols.

The latest Covid-19 figures place 11 cities in Iran are on red alert and 32 on orange alert. This means that, practically speaking, Khuzestan is out of reach: all 11 “red” cities are located in this province. The “orange” cities, meanwhile, are scattered across Iran and, with the likelihood of changes to alert levels in the coming weeks, it is very difficult for Iranians to make travel plans that can withstand the unpredictability.

The latest figures also place 251 cities in Iran on yellow alert and 154 on blue alert. Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said the final alert levels and travel restrictions before new year’s holidays will be announced on Saturday, March 6.

The Third Shipment of the Russian Coronavirus Vaccine Arrives

So far 220,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine and 250,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China have arrived in Iran. This is enough to vaccinate 245,000 people and, according to the National Vaccinations Guidelines which were passed by the National Coronavirus Taskforce, medical staff and health workers who work in ICUs will be the first to be inoculated.

According to Health Minister Saeed Namaki, however, some members of this group have refused to be vaccinated. As a result, the vaccination campaign has partly moved to the second priority group: elderly care home residents, the disabled in care centers and war veterans who survived chemical attacks in the Iran-Iraq war. Namaki claimed that vaccination of this second group was already nearly complete.

The next shipment of the Russian vaccine, containing 200,000 doses, was due to arrive in Iran by late on Thursday, March 4. The situation of Iran’s share of vaccines gained through Covax, a global initiative aimed at equitable access led by the World Health Organization, is still not entirely clear but it is understood that Iran will receive its first shipment of 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by late March or early April.

A Second Iranian Vaccine Enters Clinical Trials

Clinical trials of Cov-Pars, developed by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, began on Sunday, February 28. The institute received a permit from Iran’s Food and Drug Administration to start testing its vaccine on human volunteers on January 16, and in phase 1 of the trial, 13 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 are to receive the test jab.

This recombinant vaccine will be given to people in three doses. The first dose is intramuscular, as is second dose after 21 days, and the third dose will be inhaled on the 51st day. If clinical trials are successful, the Cov-Pars vaccine is will go into mass production by late spring, said Dr. Masoud Soleimani, professor of epidemiology at Iran University of Medical Sciences.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki also announced that if the results of phase 1 are promising, the second and third phases of clinical trials for the CovIran-Barekat vaccine could be combined “so that we can go into production as soon as possible.”

In the past week it has also been reported that phase 3 of clinical trials of the vaccine that Iran’s Pasteur Institute is set to produce in cooperation with Cuba is yet to get under way.

Coronavirus Statistics for the Week Ending March 4

According to daily briefings by the Health Ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, on Saturday, February 27, some 7,975 people across the country tested positive for coronavirus. On Sunday, this number exceeded 8,000 and on Monday, March 1, it abruptly jumped to 8,510. This trend continued until Thursday when 8,404 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed.

Officially-recorded Covid-19 fatalities, which are likely to be an underestimate of the true death toll, followed the same trend. On Saturday and Sunday the recorded numbers of fatalities were 81 and 93 respectively, but on Monday reached 108. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the number of recorded Covid-19 deaths stood, respectively, at 86, 86 and 78.

In its official submissions to the WHO the Health Ministry only includes patients who have died after testing positive for coronavirus. The true number, as some Iranian health officials have said, could be as many as two to four times higher.

According to Dr. Lari, as of Thursday, March 4, some 3,760 Covid-19 patients were in intensive care units across Iran. Though the ministry does not break down its statistics by city or province, the sudden increase in the number of fatalities has been directly linked to Covid-19 deaths in Khuzestan. During the past seven days, one-third and even one-fourth of the official daily fatalities were recorded to this province.

The Continued Crisis in Khuzestan

In the past two weeks, more than any other province in Iran, Khuzestan has been plagued with the highly contagious variant of coronavirus first discovered in England. An average of around 30 percent of confirmed daily Covid-19 fatalities have been registered in Khuzestan and the number of patients breathing through ventilators has been increasing in this province day by day.

Repeated requests by provincial officials for a two-week lockdown of Khuzestan have been brushed aside by the government. The only response by Health Minister Namaki has been to tell people: “Do not travel to Khuzestan”.

“We have a two-week lockdown of Khuzestan’s border in place, but we do not have a two-week lockdown of Khuzestan itself,” said Khuzestan’s governor, Ghasem Soleimani Dashtaki. He reported that every day around 2,000 coronavirus tests were being conducted in Khuzestan and at least 150 to 200 of those who test positive end up being hospitalized.

According to the latest reports, 1,500 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized across this relatively deprived province, 366 of them in intensive care units. Of this number, approximately 60 are breathing through ventilators.

According to Dr. Farhad Abolnejadian, president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences in Khuzestan, one of the main factors contributing to the high mortality rate in Khuzestan is that often the patients are brought to the hospitals after it is too late. A review of fatalities logged between February 8 and March 2, he said, shows that one-third of Covid-19 deaths occur within 24 hours of hospitalization, and 70 percent of new patients have to either be connected to a ventilator or die immediately on being brought to emergency wards.

In the past week, at least 123 medical personnel in Khuzestan were infected with coronavirus and five of them were hospitalized.

Flights with 32 Countries Are Suspended

Every day there new reports of infections with the coronavirus variant are surfacing in various parts of Iran. Besides Khuzestan, the most cases have so far been reported in Qazvin, Mashhad and Tehran.

Health officials say that travelers from Iraq are the principal carriers of the coronavirus variant in Khuzestan, while air travelers from other countries have brought the new strain to other parts of Iran. On March 1, Iran’s Civil Aviation Administration announced that all would-be air travelers from Khuzestan must have proof that they have tested negative for coronavirus before a ticket is issued.

The Civil Aviation Administration also suspended all flights to and from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini (Swaziland), French Guinea, Lesotho, Guyana, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Surinam, Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

March 5 – March 11:

The repeated advice of the Islamic Republic’s health officials in the past two weeks has been “Do not travel”. The ban on traveling to and from cities on red or orange alert has been unequivocally stated by the National Coronavirus Taskforce. But these cities number just 50, a considerable number of which are within Khuzestan, and vast swathes of the country are untouched by the guidance ahead of Iranian new year.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki has implored people – in the name of a Shia saint, no less – to avoid holiday travel. “We beg you not to travel,” he said. “The health minister must beg, must plead, must kiss hands and feet, to get anywhere.”

The new Iranian calendar year starts on March 21. During the 13-day holiday called Nowruz, Iranians traditionally visit each other and go traveling, which portends trouble during a pandemic and was one of the chief causes of the surge in Covid-19 cases observed last spring.

Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, warned that there would be an “ambush” of new infections when these vacationers returned to Tehran. He added that officials were making contradictory statements about the holidays, and said it would be “the same thing we witnessed after reopening schools last fall and this winter. Not much time remains until the end of the year, but it is still not yet clear how Nowruz travels are going to be handled.”

According to the latest report, a final decision on travel restrictions will be communicated by March 15: long after most people will have already made up their minds about whether or not to travel.

Phase 3 of Clinical Trials of the Cuban Vaccine in Iran

More than a month ago, Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador to the United Kingdom, claimed that countries typically buy their vaccines from a single source and few countries like Iran acquire it through multiple sources. Regardless of the veracity of this, as of now, Iran has imported four different kinds of coronavirus vaccine that still amount to fewer than a million doses.

On the evening of Wednesday, March 10, the first shipment of the Covid-19 vaccine made by India’s Bharat Biotech company, containing 150,000 doses, arrived in Tehran. This is the fifth shipment of vaccine that Iran has received to date. Earlier 320,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine in three shipments, and 250,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government in one shipment, had been delivered to Iran.

According to Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, an emergency permit for the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has been issued by his agency and inoculations can start immediately. Frontline medical staff and health workers, some elderly groups and veterans aged over 50 still have priority.

Jahanpour also reported that 100,000 does of the Cuban Soberana (Spanish for "Sovereign") 2 vaccine were to arrive in Iran late on Thursday, March 11. He said these doses would be used to conduct phase 3 of the vaccine’s clinical trials, a joint project between Iran’s Pasteur Institute and the Cuban Finlay Institute, and if the trials are successful then mass production of the vaccine in both countries would start.

Official Coronavirus Statistics

The number of Covid-19 tests in Iran has increased to more than 100,000 per day, reported the Ministry of Health. According to this report, the number of positive tests returned are continuously more than 8,000 per day. In the past week, the highest number of positive results at 8,606 was recorded on Wednesday, March 10. The lowest number was recorded on Sunday, at 8,010.

Coronavirus Pandemic: An Iranian Chronology, March 2021

The total Covid-19 death toll in Iran reached 61,016 on March 11, announced Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, who also reported that 3,818 Covid-19 patients are currently being treated in ICUs.

Coronavirus Pandemic: An Iranian Chronology, March 2021

As of now, she said, a total of 1,723,470 Iranians have been infected with coronavirus. However, considering that only a little over 11.5 million Covid-19 tests have been conducted across a population of more than 83 million, this is likely to be far short of the real figure.

In most provinces hit with the coronavirus variant the number of infections continue to rise and ICU wards are at capacity in Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan, the hardest-hit province in Iran, with 11 cities on red alert and eight cities on orange alert. Dr. Farhad Soltani, vice president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, said that he hoped the situation would improve in the next two weeks as the recently-introduced restrictions begin to yield results.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, at no time have restrictions have not enforced effectively, not has compliance with health protocols been adequate. In fact, Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced on March 10 that infections were still rising in Khuzestan and warned that the province could expect a “more horrible storm” than at any point last year.

Coronavirus Variant and Alert Levels

The coronavirus variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom has spread across Iran and is responsible for some of the fatalities now being recorded, but the exact number of infections and deaths caused by this variant is not known, because not every province is equipped to distinguish it from the original virus in lab tests. For the most part, samples must be sent to Pasteur Institute in Tehran for identification, an inconvenient and laborious process.

Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, has meanwhile called for the alert levels of Iranian cities to be adjusted by taking into account the level of spread, because the variant is much more contagious and acts faster. He said that each person infected with the original strain of the virus will, on average, infect 1.2 individuals, while this rises to 2.3 in people infected with the new variant.

According to the latest figures announced by Dr. Lari, 11 Iranian cities are currently in a red state of alert, while 32 cities are in an orange state of alert, 251 cities are on yellow alert and 154 are rated blue. All cities on red alert are in Khuzestan.

Some People Cannot Afford Masks

In Tehran, at least 20,000 people are trying to make a living as street vendors because of the harsh economic situation and some cannot even afford to buy masks, said Dr. Zali. He added that economic problems might lead people to “disobedience”, adding: “In general, there are a large number of holes in the protective cover for downtrodden and vulnerable segments of society.”

Officials of the Islamic Republic have repeatedly claimed that Iran is now self-sufficient in producing masks and it has even started exporting them.

110 Nurses Have Died from Covid-19

Tehran Nursing Organization announced that since the coronavirus outbreak 110 nurses across Iran have lost their lives to Covid-19 and 90,000 have been infected with coronavirus. Tehran, with 26 fatalities and 16,000 infections, and Ahvaz have had the highest number of fatalities among nurses.

March 12 – March 18:

Fourteen months after the initial outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the officially-recorded Covid-19 death toll in the country has now passed 61,500. The true figure is likely to be two to three times higher.

The new Iranian calendar year starts tomorrow, March 21, and travelling to and from cities on “orange” and “red” alert has been banned. Violators will have to pay a fine of 1.5 million tomans, close to $365. But reports have already surfaced that police are simply fining these people and then allowing them to proceed to their destinations.

Khuzestan Still in Dire Straits

The coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom last year continues to spread like wildfire in Khuzestan province, which is now in a critical situation. Provincial officials report that the number of infections in Khuzestan is still on the rise and, according to Dr. Mohammad Alavi, president of Khuzestan Health Center, hospital Covid-19 wards are operating at capacity.

Eight cities in Khuzestan are currently on red alert and nine are classed as orange. As of March 18, around 1,700 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospitals across the province, more than 400 of them in intensive care units.

Despite the dire situation in Khuzestan, health officials continue to complain that compliance with health protocols are not what they should be. Dr. Shokrollah Salmanzadeh, president of Abadan University of Medical Sciences, claimed thousands of people had participated in a mourning ceremony in the port city of Khorramshahr last week.

The Variant Spreads to Hormozgan

After weeks of warnings, as predicted the coronavirus variant has now spread from Khuzestan to the neighboring coastal province of Hormozgan: an infamously deprived zone, but also the destination of choice for many winter holidaymakers.

According to Dr. Hossein Farshidi, president of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, 50 to 60 percent of current Covid-19 patients in the port city of Bandar Abbas have been infected with the coronavirus variant. He said that the situation in the city was “worrisome” and in the past month, the number of Covid-19 cases in Hormozgan had surged again to 110. As of last week, the officially-recorded number of fatalities in the province stood at 1,039.

Dr. Farshidi reported that the situation on the islands of Kish and Qeshm was also critical because although the populations of these islands are low, a high proportion of the residents have been infected.

Warnings of Another Surge in Tehran

Infections with the new coronavirus variant has been rising in Tehran province as well. According to Dr. Nader Tavakoli, deputy director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, the number of Covid-19 inpatients in the province has increased by 18 percent in the past week. He blamed an increase in traffic and a decline in public adherence to social distancing rules.

As of Thursday, March 18, 2,414 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospitals in Tehran province, 872 of them in ICUs, reported Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce. Dr. Zali also said the variant has now spread to 28 of 31 Iranian provinces. He warned that another surge of coronavirus infections in Tehran might well begin after Nowruz holiday travelers return home.

Travel Restrictions and Fears of a Fourth Wave

The new Iranian calendar year arrives on Sunday, March 21. It ushers in a 13-day holiday, Nowruz, during which Iranians usually visit each other and travel around the country. This year, of course, the situation is far from usual and authorities have been imploring people to abstain from traveling. The National Coronavirus Taskforce, however, was very late in announcing travel restrictions and lockdowns, leaving people confused about what arrangements to make.

On Wednesday, March 17, the presidents of universities of medical sciences across Iran issued a statement warning that traveling increases the likelihood of coronavirus variants spreading to new locations. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on the same day: “We are absolutely not in favor of travel” during the Nowruz holidays.

Nevertheless, Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, announced that only the taskforce and the Interior Ministry’s Social and Security Committee have the authority to announce regulations concerning Nowruz travel.

Trips to cities classified as red and orange using private vehicles have been officially prohibited, but all other travel has not, leaving hundreds of cities across the country open to visitors. Even at the height of the pandemic in November, the government had only imposed a partial shutdown of “red” cities, with the authorities saying the government simply could not afford to temporarily halt the economy and financially support people to stay inside.

The Iranian economy has been steadily deteriorating ever since 2018, when former US President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the US from the JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions.  The pandemic has only exacerbated Iran’s economic pains, with the Ministry of Labor recently declaring it has wiped more than one million jobs out of an already unstable employment market.

The latest alert classification of Iranian cities in terms of coronavirus infection rates was announced on March 15 and will remain in effect for a month, until the end of Nowruz. According to a statement by the National Coronavirus Taskforce, nine cities, eight of them in Khuzestan, are on red alert and 31 are orange. Travel to and from red and orange cities has been banned until April 2.

Official Coronavirus Statistics

According to the official statistics announced daily by the health ministry’s spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, a total of 565 patients lost their lives to Covid-19 in the week ending March 18. Monday, March 15, with 100 deaths, saw the highest number of fatalities recorded, and the next day witnessed the highest number of new cases for the week:

Coronavirus Pandemic: An Iranian Chronology, March 2021

As of the end of the week, 3,866 Covid-19 patients were being treated in ICUs.

Coronavirus Pandemic: An Iranian Chronology, March 2021

The Slow Pace of Vaccination Continues

According to the Health Ministry, Iran has so far imported 1.26 million doses of vaccine from Russia, China, India and Cuba: enough to vaccinate 630,000 people. But more than 50,000 doses of these are to be used in phase 3 of the clinical trials of the Cuban vaccine, which is being conducted simultaneously in Cuba and Iran.

Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said Iran is due to receive 375,000 of the Bharat Biotech vaccine from India on Monday, March 29, and one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine on March 27 via Covax, the World Health Organization’s initiative to provide countries around the world with a more equitable access to coronavirus vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be approved for use in Iran but Dr. Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesman for Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, announced that his agency is reviewing the issue and if it decides to give the vaccine an emergency permit it will be announced forthwith.

The slow pace of vaccinations, however, has not stopped the Islamic republic from boasting that its ability to make coronavirus vaccines exemplifies its self-sufficiency, with one top official comparing the feat to its ability to build missiles. "Just as we were forced to manufacture missiles ourselves, we have produced a coronavirus vaccine," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on March 15. He also accused western countries of “hoarding” three times the number of coronavirus vaccine doses they need.

Notwithstanding Zarif’s boast, Iran’s coronavirus vaccine candidates are still undergoing clinical trials and have not received official approval. The latest Iranian coronavirus vaccine to emerge – with scant details – is named Fakhra, after the country's late nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated near Tehran in November.

Fakhra was reportedly first unveiled on March 16, when its first clinical trial was launched in a ceremony attended by senior officials, including Health Minister Saeed Namaki. The minister pledged that Iran would soon become a "world leader" in Covid-19 vaccine production.

One of Fakhrizadeh's two sons, Hamed Fakhrizadeh, became the first volunteer to receive a test dose of Fakhra, which was produced by the Defense Ministry's Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research. The department was previously headed by Fakhrizadeh, whose killing has been blamed on Israeli agents.

March 25:

The Iranian government has admitted its Covid-19 vaccine rollout has failed and placed the blame on COVAX, the global initiative to ensure vaccines are shared fairly around the world. From now on, a government spokesman has said, the country will mostly rely on domestic vaccine production. 

Kianoush Jahanpour, speaking for the Food and Drug Administration, announced on Thursday that the 2.8 million coronavirus vaccines due to arrive in Iran via COVAX by March 2021 had not yet been delivered. This, he said, was due to “a global organization not keeping its promise”, adding that there had been “many restrictions” and obstacles blocking the plans.

All in all Iran expects to procure more than 21 million doses of vaccine via COVAX: enough to inoculate 10.5 million Iranians out of a population of more than 80 million. But delays to the initial shipment have cast doubt on the viability of the plans overall.

Jahanpour also reported delays to the production of the Russian Sputnik vaccine inside Iran and other countries outside the Russian Federation, citing an insufficient supply of raw materials, including resin and gel.

Three days before Thursday’s admission, Jahanpour had also told a radio program that 700,000 doses of vaccine from India, China and Russia had been so far been distributed in Iran. He added that India had promised to deliver 375,000 further doses of vaccine out of a planned 500,000 to Iran by March 20, but these too had been blocked by the Indian Prosecutor’s Office.

From now on, Jahanpour said, the majority of the public vaccinations in Iran would be based on "national production".

Iranian media outlets have also remarked on the slow progress of Iran’s vaccination program. On March 16, Hamshahri newspaper quoted the head of the Ministry of Health’s National Committee on Covid-19 Epidemiology as saying that just 60,000 people had received a shot so far. Given that each person requires two doses for a high level of immunity, he said, it meant a maximum of 30,000 people had so far been made safe.

That said, Iran’s approach to vaccination – whether it has chosen to give each person a single vaccination first and then the second injection within 12 weeks, or whether it is vaccinating individuals with a first dose followed by a strict three-week injection before ensuring others receive their first dose – has not been clarified.

March 26:

Yesterday’s daily coronavirus update from the Iranian Ministry of Health came with an unexpected addendum.  "We recommend eating as much fruit as possible instead of sweets and chocolates during Nowruz," spokeswoman Dr Sima Sadat Lari told audiences.

According to yesterday’s figures, another 7,506 Iranians tested positive for coronavirus infection and 97 people died from Covid-19 in the preceding 24 hours. Another 792 people had been hospitalized with Covid-19 and 3,889 patients were in ICUs across the country.

There have been mounting fears of a “fourth wave” of infections in Iran ever since the new hyper-infectious strain first identified in Britain found its way to Khuzestan.

Despite this, New Year travel is still permitted in most of the country. A total of 17 cities in Iran are on red alert for coronavirus transmission, while another 47 are rated orange. Travel to and from these cities is prohibited, but the rest of the country is still open.

Government officials repeatedly begged people not to travel in the run-up to Nowruz. On Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani called on people to limit their journeys as much as possible. But with few formal restrictions in place, there are early signs that many people have indeed embarked on journeys to visit friends and relatives for Nowruz.

According to official reports, the number of New Year trips this year increased by 52 percent compared to last year, shortly after the outbreak of coronavirus was officially announced in Iran. In Gilan province alone, the information secretary of the Nowruz Travel Committee has reported that 2.4 million passengers entered the province, and 2.2 million departed from it, between the start of the holidays and Thursday, March 25.

The Nowruz holiday in Iran ends on Saturday, March 27, when many citizens must return to work. The officially-recorded Covid-19 death toll is currently rising sharply and according to the Deputy Minister of Health, the current figures do not yet reflect the impact of Nowruz shopping and travel. It was in this context that on Thursday, Dr Lari called on people to eat well during the holidays to strengthen their immune systems.

March 29:

In the coming days another 20 Iranian cities will be placed on high alert for coronavirus transmission, after a surge in New Year travel over the past two weeks.

Alireza Raeesi, a spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said on Monday, March 29 that the Taskforce is expecting to see a rise in infections across the western and central parts of the country.

He warned again about the outset of a “fourth wave” of coronavirus in Iran, citing the worst-affected cities as Shabestar and Miyaneh in East Azerbaijan, Najafabad in Isfahan, Savojbolagh, Fardis and Nazarabad in Alborz province, Dashtestan in Bushehr, Shahriyar in Tehran province, Borujen in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kermanshah City, Delfan and Selseleh in Lorestan, and Saveh and Arak in Markazi. All of these locations are set to be shortly placed on “orange” alert whil Abdanan in Ilam and Azna in Lorestan are likely to be classed as “red”.

Elsewhere in the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Zanjan and Rafsanjan, the number of new Covid-19 hospitalizations has increased rapidly over the holidays and these cities are also likely to see their alert level upgraded to orange.

The Health Ministry’s latest figures rate 23 and 44 cities red and orange respectively, and travel to and from these locations is banned.

Ministry spokeswoman Dr Sima Sadat Lari also said that in the 24 hours leading up to midday on Monday, another 81 Iranians were recorded as having died from Covid-19, bringing the officially-reported number of deaths from Covid-19 in Iran to 62,478.

Another 9,310 new cases of coronavirus infection were identified in the same period, and a total of 1,157 new Covid-19 were admitted to hospital. There are now a total of 3,940 people with coronavirus being treated in hospitals in Iran.

This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology



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