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Millions could die of coronavirus in Iran, researchers warn

Precautions are in place in Iran to prevent the spread of coronavirus [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 March, 2020

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Millions could perish from coronavirus in Iran in the coming months, researchers have warned.
The coronavirus may not have yet reached its peak in Iran, but a lack of aid coupled with government mismanagement means that as many as 3.5 million people could die in the Islamic Republic in the coming months.

Researchers at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran have created a computer simulator to test different scenarios related to the spread of COVID-19 across Iran.

In the best-case scenario - in which the government quarantines all high-risk  areas, people obey quarantine rules, and access to medical supplies is guaranteed - the epidemic will reach its peak in Iran in approximately one week.

In this case, the death toll would exceed 12,000.

However the current trajectory of Iran tells a different story. The government is unable to impose strict quarantine rules, people are not self-isolating and medical supplies are rapidly dwindling as a result of US sanctions and mismanagement.

With more realistic numbers, researchers estimate Iran will reach the peak of the epidemic not in one week but rather at the end of May, by which point as many as 3.5 million people could die.

Mohammed Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said he plans to tighten control within 10 days, while there is talk of curfews being imposed in Tehran.

"We have neither the capacity nor the ability to put Tehran under quarantine. We can't take care of quarantined people. That is in part because of the sanctions," Tehran's Mayor Pirouz Hanachi said.

Read More: Lebanon's medical students on the frontline in fighting coronavirus

"We have neither the capacity nor the ability to put Tehran under quarantine."

Iran closes pilgrimage sites

A key pilgrimage site in Iran's holy Shia city of Mashhad has been closed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, a spokesman said on Sunday.

The new measures to shut the tomb of Imam Reza come as the COVID-19 pandemic claims another 113 lives in the Islamic Republic.

Iran has seen one of the deadliest outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside of China, where it originated.

Tehran on Sunday urged citizens to stick to guidelines and stay at home after announcing the latest deaths, bringing the total toll to 724 dead since last month.

People "should cancel all travel and stay at home so that we may see the situation improving in the coming days", health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference.

Jahanpour also reported 1,209 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, raising the total to 13,938.

"The good news is that more than 4,590 of the overall confirmed cases have recovered" and the patients have been discharged from hospitals, he added.

Jahanpour called on Iranians to "take the coronavirus seriously" and especially be mindful of the elderly who are most vulnerable to the virus.

Tehran province had the highest number of new infections with 251 fresh cases.

Khorasan Razavi province followed with 143 cases.

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