Iranwire – On Thursday, April 22, the official number of daily Covid-19 fatalities in Iran passed 450 for the first time in 2021.The jump in the number of new cases has not only coincided with a shortage of hospital beds in both common wards and ICUs, but a shortage of equipment and facilities.
Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital is a well-known center for treating patients with acute respiratory diseases. But this facility, too, is now at capacity, and has set up a field hospital in its grounds.
The fourth wave of coronavirus has also led to a shortage of medical manpower. On April 22, Health Minister Saeed Namaki ordered that all students in their final year of medical, nursing and medical assistant courses must report to wards treating Covid-19 patients.
Joint Production of the Russian Vaccine
Namaki also announced that joint production of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V will get under way in Iran in the next two weeks. He claimed that by late May, Iran would rank among the “best” producers of coronavirus vaccine in the world.
On April 22, Iran also received a delivery of 100,000 more doses of Sputnik vaccine. This is the sixth shipment of the Russian vaccine to Iran and brings the total number of doses to 620,000, enough to vaccinate 310,000 people.
The Islamic Republic reports that so far it has imported a total of 2.95 million doses of vaccine: a very low number compared to other countries in the region. Since vaccination began in Iran two months ago, just 667,202 doses have been administered while in Turkey, Iran’s northwestern neighbor, which has a comparable population, more that 20 million doses have been given to patients.
Cash for Vaccinations?
Besides the slow pace of Iran’s mass vaccination drive, there have been persistent reports that preferential treatment is playing a role. Some municipal officials, Friday Imams and members of their families have been inoculated in instances of alleged queue-jumping.
On Sunday, April 18, Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, said that while all Iranians should have been vaccinated for free by March 2022, citizens who want to received the jab ahead of their officially-prescribed turn can “pay for the expenses” and do so.
The next day, however, he retracted his statement and announced instead “all groups in the country will receive free coronavirus vaccination in order of priority”.
Official Coronavirus Statistics
According to official statistics announced daily by the health ministry, a total of 2,686 patients lost their lives to Covid-19 in the week ending April 22. With 453 deaths, April 22 had the highest number of officially-recorded fatalities for the week. The highest number of Covid-19 fatalities in a single day since the pandemic started, 468, was logged on November 16, 2020.
At the week’s end, 5,038 Covid-19 patients were being treated in ICUs.
At the week’s end the health ministry announced that 301 Iranian cities are currently on red alert, 95 are orange, 45 are yellow and only seven cities are on blue alert.
Due to the unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections, North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences has asked the third sector for help in acquiring the equipment and supplies it desperately needs, including, but not limited to, at least eight ICU beds, surgical masks and PPE, disinfectants and 70-percent pure alcohol. The university also published its bank account details so people can make direct donations.
Dr. Mohammad Arezumand, president of Amir al-Mo’menin Hospital in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, reported that the hospital had completely run out of beds even on its emergency ward. The number of outpatients, he said, continued to rise. According to him, 70 percent of the hospital’s medical staff and health workers have been infected with coronavirus since the pandemic started and one has died but “fortunately” now almost all its frontline health workers have been vaccinated.
This hospital is not the only one in Khuzestan that has been overwhelmed by the recent fresh surge in Covid-19 patients. Dr. Farhad Soltani, vice president of Ahvaz Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, reported that coronavirus wards in all cities of the province are at capacity and out of its close to 2,000 Covid-19 inpatients, more than 400 are being treated in ICUs.
In Tehran province, according to Behesht Zahra Cemetery, the number of daily coronavirus fatalities has reached 150 and the crisis shows no sign of easing. Dr. Alireza Zali, director of Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, reported that 35 percent of Covid-19 patients currently being treated in ICUs across this province are in a grave condition.
He added that some 8,572 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized in 105 hospitals in Tehran province, around 2,000 of whom were in intensive care units. On Wednesday, April 21 alone, 1,990 new patients were hospitalized while the number of newly-logged outpatients stood at around 16,000. Dr. Zali said that restrictions and lockdowns must continue and called for a “support package” for people who those in a dire economic situation.
In East Azerbaijan, 1,606 Covid-19 patients are in hospital, eight percent higher than on the worst day of the “third wave” last November, reported Dr. Mohammad Sumi, president of Tabriz University of Medical Science. He added that in the past 24 hours 23 Covid-19 patients died whereas just a month ago the number of fatalities was down to at most one per day. As of now, 4,345 inpatients are known to have lost their lives to Covid-19 in this province.
Dr. Abbas Ali Dorosti, vice president of the same university, warned that with the increase in hospital admissions, these facilities are in danger of running out of oxygen which is essential for treating Covid-19 patients with severe respiratory symptoms.