On October 12, Iranian Health Ministry Spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari acknowledged that the coronavirus death toll in Iran had broken all records with 272 deaths in 24 hours. A day earlier, she had announced that the country’s Covid-19 death toll broke the record with 251 deaths.
Iranian state media also reported two senior officials in the Rouhani administration had contracted the coronavirus. The head of the Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi and the chief of Budget and Planning Organization Mohammad Bagher Nobakht tested positive for the virus on Sunday, October 11.
Since the beginning of the disease, the Health Ministry has tried to conceal the death toll, covering up the government’s mismanagement. “Over 121,600 people have died of the novel coronavirus in 458 cities checkered across all of Iran’s 31 provinces,” reported the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) on Monday, October 12. The official death count remained at 28,816, around a quarter of the figure reported by the opposition, according to Lari on the same day.
June 27– Ali Khamenei blamed “some people & officials” for taking the circumstances “too lightly,” & criticized “some people who thought #COVID19 had come to an end.”
“#Coronavirus isn't a major issue… This will not last so long”– Khamenei on March 3.pic.twitter.com/jjWB1Vv3iH
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) June 28, 2020
A significant soar in coronavirus fatalities once again drove attention to the government’s horrible performance against the pandemic. In response, officials hastily tried to justify their failures, laying blame on the people. “We, the people, should take measures based on our responsibilities. This social distancing, masks, and instructions, washing our hands, these are necessary measures,” the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on September 21.
Notably, in his March 4 broadcast message, Khamenei downplayed the disease and described it as a “blessing.” Furthermore, in April, he agreed with granting €1 billion from the National Development Fund to the Health Ministry. However, Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced that only 30 percent of this amount was received in recent months.
On September 26, President Hassan Rouhani concealed his administrations’ failures in containing the disease. “People said we are waiting for March when the weather becomes warm; then we can get rid of the illness. They had the impression that this is a disease like influenza… and it will create a public immunity,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani blamed the people while citizens reminded him of his hollow promises about “defeating the virus.” The people mock him, asking, “When will your ‘Saturday’ come?” in reference to Rouhani’s mid-March remark at the cabinet meeting, heralding the people that the “conditions would be normalized from the upcoming Saturday.”
The triple-digit death toll for consecutive days pushed the government to reimpose restrictions and a lockdown. Authorities also mandated that all Tehran residents wear face masks outdoors and in public places. Meanwhile, the government considered a 500,000-rial [$1.60] fine for those who fail to wear a mask. This fine is equivalent to the government’s monthly subsidy to each person.
This is while the Iranian government practically exposed millions of people to the novel coronavirus in the past eight months. In February, given their political interests, the authorities delayed informing the people about the health crisis. Rallies marking the 41st anniversary of the “Islamic Revolution” and holding in-person Parliamentary elections drastically spread the virus among citizens.
Later, the government pushed health professionals to write necessary protocols to reopen businesses in April. Authorities left millions of low-income and working families to opt between dying of Covid-19 or starvation. In August and September, they insisted on holding crowded mourning, college entrance exams, and schools’ reopening, exposing millions of students, teachers, and parents to the virus.
The ayatollahs blame the people for the surge in the disease to evade their own responsibility and save themselves from social consequences and public fury. However, they only fuel the people’s rage and add insult to millions of grieving families who have lost their loved ones.