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Iran prepares for a third wave of coronavirus outbreak

Iranian officials have warned that the country would experience a third wave of coronavirus in the fall.
Iranians wearing face masks walk down a street in the capital Tehran amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on August 9, 2020. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Even as the number of coronavirus deaths has fallen in the last few weeks, Iranian officials are warning that the country will soon witness a third wave.

According to Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari, Iran had almost 2,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total documented infections in the country to 380,000. Also in the last 24 hours, there have been 129 coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the confirmed death total to nearly 22,000. While these are the documented number of coronavirus deaths and cases in the country, Iranian officials have warned previously the actual numbers for both are higher.

Iran was one of the earliest countries to have an outbreak of coronavirus infections, largely due to its close relations and travel with China, where the virus is believed to have originated. In February, the first cases of the virus and deaths in Iran began to be documented. In March, the country implemented a nationwide lockdown, making exceptions for only essential services but soon gradually easing the measures in April due to the economic pressures of a sustained lockdown. Coronavirus cases and deaths increased once again for a period of time in July and have come back down in the last few weeks.

Now officials are warning of a third wave. “Counting down the days until school starts on one hand and hearing the footsteps of fall on the other has increased the concerns of another outbreak of coronavirus,” wrote Javan newspaper.

Head of the Coronavirus Combat Operations Headquarters in Tehran Alireza Zali spoke about some of the issues facing Tehran. To give an example of the population density in the city, Zali said that district four of Tehran is the same size population-wise as all of Ilam province. He added that Tehran province as a whole has a population of nearly 15 million. Zali said that approximately 1 million people a day enter Tehran for work and leave at the end of the workday, adding that 400,000 cars enter Tehran every day from Alborz province. He said nearly 1 million people use the metro and the bus system in the city. A third wave is imminent, Zali warned.

One problem with the third wave is the shortage of hospital beds, according to officials. Saeed Safari of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences warned of an inadequate supply of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the fall. “The most important issue is that we do not have ICU beds, we have to start thinking now about fall and winter,” Safari said.

While officials are concerned about a third wave, the question still remains as to what extent schools will open. In comments to the Coronavirus Combat Operations committee, President Hassan Rouhani implied that schools would open with certain guidelines. As a model, Rouhani said that given the experience of holding Muharram ceremonies, national exams and office workspaces, the health of students would be a priority.

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