“We are on the brink of a catastrophe and the country has literally been left to be. There are no empty hospital beds. Beds become empty only after a patient dies,” Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted physician Aram Eshaqi as saying on August 3.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in Iran, where the coronavirus has swept the country and for five consecutive days, the official death toll surpassed 500 cases. This is while the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI) has declared the actual number of Covid-19 fatalities is more than 1,700 per day.

A day earlier, former Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had provided moving facts about the health crisis in Iran. “The official stats of people hospitalized and those dying of Covid-19 may slightly differ from the true numbers,” Mehr news agency quoted Harirchi as saying on August 2.

“Forecasts conducted by a U.S.-based university shows that in the news six weeks our Covid-19 death toll will reach around 600 per day, and maybe even 800,” Harirchi added. On the same day, the Health Ministry had declared that 411 Covid-19 patients have lost their lives to the viral disease.

Harirchi is not the sole health official, who admits to the government’s secrecy about coronavirus victims. These days, no official can downplay the magnitude of the pandemic in Iran while professionals clearly say, “The dam of our health apparatus is breaking.”

“The number of people entering various hospitals is extremely high. Yesterday was one of the worst days… The corrected coronavirus daily death toll is 700 to 800,” said Dr. Payam Tabarsi, the head of the epidemiology section of Tehran’s Massih Daneshvari Hospital in an interview with Fars news agency on August 3.

On the other hand, Ali Reza Zali, the head of the Tehran Covid-19 Task Force, revealed damning details about the government’s mismanagement in the pandemic era.

“When World Health Organization experts came to Iran, instead of conducting advisory sessions with them, we constantly asked them to praise our medical apparatus in the media. We concealed the death toll from the WHO,” Zali said, according to an ISNA report on August 12.

“We returned global aid and those from Doctors Without Borders at the airport, while we had no adequate information about the virus, and we did not use international advisory support,” Zali said, adding, “Why doesn’t China, being our close friend, deliver enough vaccines for us? Our ambassadors in foreign countries were not seeking to procure vaccines. I talked to the Japanese ambassador, and he said the Iranian ambassador had not requested vaccines at all. What kind of diplomacy is this?”

Indeed, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei prohibited the import of reliable Covid-19 vaccines from the U.S., the UK, and even France on January 8. “The import of American and British Covid-19 vaccines is forbidden,” the state-run broadcasting organization IRIB aired Khamenei’s remarks. “I have said this [point] to officials and now, I am saying it publicly.”

Khamenei deprived millions of Iranians of reliable Covid-19 vaccines while former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had already exposed, “The reason the coronavirus situation is chaotic, and no decisions are made is because officials themselves have been vaccinated and they feel safe. They have received good quality vaccines.”

In such circumstances and while the official death count stands above 500 cases per day, health professionals constantly issue warnings about crowded gatherings, particularly in the holy months of Moharram. They repeatedly urge officials to impose a two- or three-week lockdown to break the virus chain.

However, in his first remarks as the head of the National Covid-19 Task Force, new President Ebrahim Raisi insisted on holding crowded religious gatherings, which will undoubtedly result in more victims.

“I truly believe that these religious gatherings can have a positive impact on the society’s spirit and people’s lives,” said Raisi.