The “promised” Saturday arrived and National Task Force convened its weekly meeting with so many questions unanswered! While wearing mask outside residence becomes mandatory for residents of Tehran from today, and if someone doesn’t follow this rule will be fined, there’s no mention of any plan on how to reduce the crowd in Tehran! Social distancing is impossible in public transport system, shopping centers, banks, government buildings and even colleges, even though Tehran is supposed to be on lockdown for another week! Zali and Harirchi had said it several times before, wearing mask is not enough to break down the chain of COVID-19 spread. But the government canceled remote working instead of encouraging it.
In the meantime, this new fining system seems to be mostly about the government reaching into people’s pockets to maybe make up a fraction of its enormous budget deficit. Taxi drivers, all businesses and even government employees will be fined 50,000 to 1,000,000 Toman (almost $1.75 to $35) if are found not wearing masks or providing services to customers without a mask! These amounts may seem small, but for many who can’t even afford a mask is too much. It’s worth noting, the government doesn’t provide free masks to people in need.
How this plan is supposed to be enforced became a source of confusion for many. Harirchi, Deputy Health Minister, announced people in shopping mall, Metro and government buildings are subject to fine for now, as there is no system for people on the streets! He continued, if the fine is not paid within 2 weeks, the amount would be deducted from their monthly cash subsidies since the tickets are based on national ID numbers. However, Deputy Health Minister in Public Safety said, “people will be fined in a way they wouldn’t know. We have a special system on the streets.” He didn’t provide more details!
While President of Islamic Republic has been busy figuring out how to fine its people, active cases have soared, critical cases are off the chart and hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients in corridors, parking lots and basements! According to Zali, “Tehran is beyond critical.” Head of Masih Daneshvari hospital warns the number of deaths could surpass Iran-Iraq victims, around 500,000!
Saeed Namaki, Islamic Republic Health Minister and in charge of containing the virus, is rumored to have contracted the coronavirus! He has skipped today’s National Task Force meeting and hasn’t been on media for a few days, which is a surprise for somebody who has more interviews than his working hours! Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, Director of Planning & Budget and vice president, is confirmed to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, “parliament Speaker” who visited COVID-19 patients and staff at a hospital in Tehran is rumored to have been infected too. His office has denied the reports saying he just took a test this morning and awaiting results! Who would be blamed for their diseases is yet to be seen, because people were not in their proximity and didn’t travel to Tehran!
Sima Sadat Lari keeps reporting the daily stats even though they have been discredited and questioned almost on a daily basis! She announced 3,875 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by PCR test and 195 deaths in the past 24 hours. 30 of 31 provinces are reported in critical status. Average age of infected and dead has decreased significantly and according to Harirchi, in the 3rd wave, the virus is infecting families and if people don’t follow protocols inside their houses, wearing mask alone would not be enough! Raising another question about the fining system which has been implemented 8 months too late!
Basic Reproduction Rate (R0) and graphs continue to be the best indicator of the crisis in Iran. Testing remains in the same low range.
Total: 496,253 (+3,875)
Dead: 28,293 (+195)
Critical: 4,392 (+57)
Admitted: 64,010 (+1,109)
Tests: 4,284,413 (5.1% of the population, assuming each test was performed on 1 person)
Cover: Bahman Sadeghi