As has been the case in China, another authoritarian regime is attempting to hide the dramatic effects of the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic.
On Tuesday, British media giant BBC published smuggled video leaked to the news organization showing bagged and tagged bodies piling up in Qom, Iran, which are reported to be victims of the country’s out-of-control viral outbreak. Indeed, as reports have noted, Qom appears to be ground zero for the Iranian epidemic and, critically, it is a popular location for Shia religious pilgrimages.
Joyce Karam, who is based in the Middle East, commented regarding the newly released video, “If they are confirmed to be from Corona as video claims, death toll is higher than the government claims (officially at 77).”
According to NPR, the virus — whatever the actual death toll — is piling on new problems for the Iranian regime following unrest and other societal problems, many of which are tied to U.S. and European sanctions on the country:
Iran has reported 77 deaths from the COVID-19 illness, and 2,336 confirmed cases of infection, as of Tuesday. On Monday, Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a 71-year-old member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader, became one of the latest casualties — the first senior official to die from the coronavirus. …
Iranians take pride in their ability to ride out tough times. But during a recent NPR visit to Tehran, public concern over the government’s response to the virus was apparent. The coronavirus outbreak comes at a time when Iran is already reeling from economic woes as the United States imposes tough economic sanctions on the country. Iran’s economy contracted by an estimated 9.5% last year.
Public health experts say Iran is spinning out of control
Business Insider noted further that, thus far, 8 percent of the Iranian Parliament — 23 of 290 members — has contracted the virus. And as each new infection comes, the country appears to be spiraling even deeper into chaos as it becomes more apparent that the regime’s leaders are simply unable to handle the emergency in a competent manner.
Iranians are already complaining that there are no shops with any supplies such as masks, gloves, or disinfectants. Also, they appear to be very suspicious of the government’s official pronouncements about how things are ‘under control’ when they can see they’re not with their own eyes. (Related: ICU Doctors Know Best)
For instance, the government has resorted to threatening people with the death penalty if they hoard ‘necessary’ materials or equipment. But it’s Iran and Iran is an authoritarian country; ‘hoarding’ to a government official could be as innocuous as someone saving up several masks to make sure they have their own supply.
Additionally, Iran has temporarily released 54,000 prisoners to combat the spread of the virus as well. And like in China, Iranian residents are self-quarantining, meaning there is likely a decrease in productivity, work stoppages, and other activities that are sure to batter the country’s already hammered economy.
What’s more, the Trump administration announced this week that it was ending travel to Iran for the time being, and that includes disallowing any foreign nationals into the U.S. who have been to the country within the past two weeks. The Trump administration, through channels, has offered to help the Iranians, but the regime has rebuffed the overtures.
Public health experts have panned the lack of government transparency in both China and Iran in regards to how officials are handling the disease, Business Insider noted, adding that it was an abject lesson for other countries that may experience an outbreak in how not to respond.
Matthew Kavanagh, an assistant professor of global health at Georgetown University, told BI last week: “In China and Iran, both experiencing major outbreaks, early action has been undermined by efforts to halt and control the free flow of information,” which has limited the public’s ability to understand what’s happening and their willingness to “share vital information with officials” which only exacerbates the problems.
Keep up with the latest on the outbreak at Pandemic.news.