The fourth wave of coronavirus continues to rampage through Iran. Despite the regime’s chronic underreporting of infections and fatalities since the emergence of the pandemic, the regime has now acknowledged this fourth wave.
The first wave official commenced in mid-February 2020, however, the People Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) reported that the spread had been recognized by the National Emergency Organisation as much as two months previous. Since this, the Health Ministry’s reporting has never reflected reality.
The MEK reports a death toll almost four times higher than the statistics propagated by the regime. Tehran estimates fewer than 70,000 casualties, the MEK can confirm that the number recently surpassed a quarter of a million.
It is inevitable that the fourth wave will raise the death toll even more. The beginning of April saw the regime’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi stated that some regions were showing positivity rates of 50%. He concluded from this that Iran was “not very far away” from daily death tolls of over 200 and authorities would finally have to “impose relative quarantine measures”.
The Health Ministry purposely uses measured language, demonstrating the unwillingness of the regime to establish a full intervention, which has been evident since the first official statement about the virus. Lockdowns were delayed, weakly enforced, and had limited scope.
The malignantly inhumane covid-19 policy was enforced in Khamenei’s refusal to release hundreds of billions of dollars in financial resources (that he controls through religious foundations) to support the response to coronavirus and the population.
Coronavirus has spread rapidly among society and Iranian prisoners alike. The risk of contraction was greater for inmates in facilities like Evin Prison, which already holds a reputation for overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, and poor medical care.
In July 2020 Amnesty International warned that “Overcrowding, poor ventilation, lack of basic sanitation and medical equipment, and deliberate neglect of prisoners’ health problems, are making Iranian prisons a perfect breeding ground for Covid-19″.
Despite this, officials have not addressed the continually spreading coronavirus in prisons. The problem has worsened due to the expiry of or revoking of, limited furlough arrangements.
Various groups of inmates have staged protests to bring attention to this. Despite the regime’s continual denial of prisoner’s requests for quarantines, the inmates in Karaj report that transfers between prisoners are still taking place. Transfers and incoming prisoners raise the risk of infection, in a deadly fourth wave, set to be just as serious as the previous three.
Vaccination efforts have been disrupted by the establishment and Khamenei’s decision to ban imports of vaccines produced in the US or the UK.
The ban has exacerbated the decision to remove the Health Ministry’s responsibility for import logistics, placing the responsibility in the hands of private entities. These entities are affiliated with Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and stand to profit from the distribution of vaccines.
Impoverished people are unable to seek vaccines from these ‘private companies’ and it seems Khamenei has not just been neglecting the crisis but actively contributing to it.
The pandemic has halted the series of anti-regime uprisings that swept Iran at the end of 2019 and the regime has effectively weaponized covid-19 to quell public unrest and raise the death toll of political prisoners in prison. The regime’s malignant covid-19 policies have increased the growing hatred towards the regime and could inspire another national uprising.