More than 10,000 health care workers in Iran infected with coronavirus, official says

More than 100 health care workers have died from the virus in Iran, the epicenter of the pandemic in the Middle East.

al-monitor An Iranian doctor works on the production of COVID-19 test kits at a medical center in Karaj, in the northern Alborz Province, on April 11, 2020. Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images.

May 22, 2020

Some 10,000 health care workers in Iran have been infected with the coronavirus, Iranian news agencies reported Thursday.  

The semi-official ISNA news outlet quoted Deputy Health Minister Qassem Janbabaei who confirmed the estimate. The Health Ministry had previously acknowledged more than 100 health care workers had died from the virus.  

“It is also an honor to live in a country where the educated medical community and medical staff are doing what our young people did at the beginning of the revolution,” Janbabaei said. 

On Thursday, Iran recorded 2,392 more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 129,341 and 7,249 deaths. On Monday, Iran recorded its biggest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases in six weeks.  

Experts have accused Iran of downplaying the extent of its coronavirus crisis and vastly undercounting cases. The real death toll could be twice as high, the Iranian parliament’s research center said in April, with Iranian officials reportedly only recording virus deaths that occurred in hospitals, not homes.

The country has begun reopening even as some health officials have warned a second wave of infections is on the horizon. Shopping malls and bazaars reopened last month and the government lifted a ban on inter-city travel. 

In early May, more than 100 mosques in cities deemed “low risk” opened their doors for the first time in months. 

Iranian officials are trying to strike a balance between maintaining public safety and reviving the economy, which was already battered by US sanctions well before the pandemic. Worryingly, the number of cases jumped 50% three weeks after Iran began to ease restrictions, Ministry of Health spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said earlier this month.

Spooked by a recent uptick in coronavirus cases, Iranian officials cancelled nationwide anti-Israel rallies scheduled for Friday.