As Iran faces what looks like its worst wave of a coronavirus pandemic yet, commuters in Tehran continue to pour into its metro and buses every working day, even as images of sick panting are seen. repeatedly shown on state television each night.
After coming under fire for downplaying the virus last year, Iranian officials have reinstated partial lockdowns and other measures to slow its spread.
But in the country of 84 million people, which faces crushing US sanctions, many are struggling to earn enough to feed their families.
Economic pressure, coupled with growing uncertainty about when vaccines will be widely available in the country, has caused many people to simply forgo social distancing, seeing it as an unaffordable luxury. This has raised concerns among public health officials that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.
Iran is now reporting its highest number of coronavirus cases on record – more than 25,000 per day. His daily death toll has climbed to around 400, still below the grim record of 486 he reached in November.
At the height of the latest outbreak in Iran, around 20,000 coronavirus patients were hospitalized across the country. Today, this figure has exceeded 40,000. The Ministry of Health warns that this number will rise to 60,000 in the coming weeks. Iran remains among the hardest-hit countries in the world and the hardest-hit in the Middle East.
President Hassan Rouhani attributes the current outbreak to the rapidly spreading variant of the virus first found in Britain, which the government says arrived from neighboring Iraq. Travel between countries has been restricted since March, although people continue to cross every day.
Overall, Iran has recorded 2.2 million reported cases and 67,000 deaths.
Iran has administered more than 500,000 doses of the vaccine, according to the WHO. Supplies remain limited, however.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned American and British-made coronavirus vaccines, saying their import was “banned” because he did not trust those countries.
Khamenei has approved the import of vaccines from “safe” countries, such as China and Russia, and supported national efforts to produce a local vaccine with help from Cuba.