Iran official seeks lockdown extension as virus rages

A Tehran official has pled for a longer lockdown as coronavirus cases rise in Tehran province.

al-monitor A woman, mask-clad as a COVID-19 pandemic precaution, walks past shops along a street in Iran's capital Tehran on Sept. 27, 2020.  Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images.

Oct 8, 2020

Alireza Zaali, the official in charge of Tehran’s headquarters for combatting the novel coronavirus, has sounded the alarm over the high number of cases in the province and asked for an extension of the weeklong lockdown.

In a letter addressed to the Health Ministry, Zaali said that those who have been hospitalized and deaths in Tehran province are at a critical point. On Oct. 3 officials announced that Tehran would be shut down until Oct. 8. All schools, salons, museums, libraries, mosques, restaurants and other areas where public gatherings take place were ordered close for the week. Zaali’s request, if accepted, would extend the shutdown to Oct. 15.

In an Oct. 7 interview, Zaali said that Tehran is currently enduring its “most bitter” days yet. In the interview he asked that airports tighten their controls and inspections of individuals traveling to the country. Zaali pointed out that some countries in East Asia are closer to China, where the novel coronavirus originated, have lower infection rates than others farther apart away, crediting stricter controls at airports.

Officials have also warned that Iran is running out of hospital beds. Massoud Mardani, a member of the Medical Committee for Combating Coronavirus, said that if the people who used the weeklong shutdown of Tehran to travel come back with virus, then they will have no choice but to open treatment centers to deal with the number of patients.

Mardani said that all of Tehran’s hospitals have been equipped to handle coronavirus patients and that in conversations with officials from the north of the country, a popular vacation destination, these officials made pleas to ask Tehran residents to stop traveling north. Mardani said that they hope to enforce travel restrictions once again, limiting the number of cars travelling between the provinces.

Mardani added that the situation in Tehran is “higher than red” and said the current restrictions and limitations will not stop the spread of the virus.

Sitting next to Zaali at a press conference, Hossein Salami, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that its Sarallah base, which is typically designated for security measures for the province, will be utilized to help combat the coronavirus. Salami said that the Sarallah base will work under the Tehran Headquarters for combatting coronavirus.

According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 230 people have died from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total to nearly 28,000.  

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