Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Despite the fact that the coronavirus has not yet reached its peak of infected in Iran, President Hasan Rouhani has already allowed people to go back to work like in a normal situation without any preventive measures.
Seyed Hassan Inanloo, deputy director at Alborz University of Medical Sciences, explained: “There are two solutions to control COVID-19 in Iran. The first one is to control the disease with a rigid quarantine, which has been achieved by democracies around the world, and the second solution is that two-thirds of the population get infected with coronavirus to achieve collective immunity” (ISNA news agency, April 6).
It is assumed that 10% to 20% of infected patients are hospitalized, and 10 % of those die. According to Hassan Inanloo’s hypothesis, about 60 million people in the country will suffer from Coronavirus, 10 million will be hospitalized, and 1 million will die, becoming a great tragedy. It seems that the Iranian regime has firmly chosen the second solution toward the pandemic.
After a few weeks of closure, on April 9, the parliament rejected the bill proposed by 80 MPs urging the total shutdown of the country for a month. This initiative was opposed to Rouhani’s plan to get people back to work. Following this decision, the board of the Iranian Society of Immunology and Allergy published an open letter to Rouhani where it stated that the infection of the population to achieve “herd immunity” to confront COVID-19 without a definite drug and vaccine was in conflict with “medical ethics and public health”.
According to the same organization, when there is no specific drug for the disease, infecting 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity would endanger the lives of nearly 2 million people, where a significant part will be the health and medical staff. They stated that the achievement of herd immunity is a mirage. Because the virus mutates in the face of biological resistance, we would face a new virus that must re-infect 70% of the population in order to achieve herd immunity. Therefore, this dangerous game continues.
Why the regime is not adopting a rigid quarantine?
Hossein Ashtari, Commander of Iran’s Law Enforcement Force, said: “There are many workers who do not have a permanent job and have to go out every day earn a living. They belong to the lowest stratum of society and government asked them to stay at home. As a result, they have no income. If this lockdown situation continues, we may expect post-coronavirus problems”. By “post-coronavirus problems” he was talking about a new uprising.
If the regime wanted to choose the total quarantine option to confront Coronavirus, it would have to provide financial assistance to at least 30 million poor and underprivileged households that will lose their job and income. However, despite the rich resources under the direct control of supreme leader Ali Khamenei, this regime does not want to spend a cent for this cause. May be that is the reason why they expect another popular uprising.
“Quarantine is very costly for the Islamic Republic of Iran government because it has to provide for people’s needs and because the government is reluctant to spend. The government is indifferent to people’s lives. It does not believe in the quarantine and the complete closure of the country, so it has opted to put millions of people’s lives at risk”, published the state-run newspaper Jahan-e San’at on April 8.
The economy of Iran is struggling under the pressure of sanctions. However, it is not the lack of money and resources that have forced the regime to abandon quarantine and social distancing to control the disease. In 2017, Reuters revealed, after some research, that Khamenei’s wealth was at least 100 billion dollars. Many observers agree that both the Supreme Leader, his affiliates, and the Revolutionary Guards have a capital valued at 200 billion dollars.
Furthermore, the Iranian regime is using its lobbyists to promote that it is unable to quarantine the entire country due to sanctions and zero oil export. As regime officials said, they wanted to take advantage of the pandemic to lift the sanctions against the country.
Consequently, with a political maneuver, the regime requested a 5 billion dollars loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and, at the same time, they requested to regain access to their blocked money in European banks. At first glance, it seems very logical for the international community to comply with this request. However, the regime continues to send cash to Lebanese Hezbollah during the sanctions.
“Collective immunity”, a way to take the Iranians hostage
The supreme leader usually takes hostages to achieve his political goals and break the political deadlock. This time, he is taking 2 million lives to lift sanctions. Hostage-taking is a policy pursued by the Iranian regime for many years. If the Iranian regime had a slight desire to fight against Coronavirus and protect people, at least it would respond positively to the international community’s calls for the release of tens of thousands of prisoners that are living under unsanitary conditions. Although this action does not require any money, the regime is reluctant to do it. In the meantime, prisoners have staged several riots in various cities to save themselves.
While workers have returned to work, Minister of Health to Rouhani still admitted COVID-19 is not under control yet. He added: “We strongly insist that any unilateral decision by any governmental, non-governmental, cultural and religious body related to COVID-19 that is not approved by us, will burn quickly the public health and the country’s economy”.
Therefore, again, there are two possible solutions: a quarantine, assuming that there might be an uprising held by the deprived and unemployed masses, and the “Herd Immunity” solution, which has been chosen by Rouhani and Khamenei, even though it can leave 2 million victims. However, it is inconceivable that the regime is not aware of the implications of a large-scale catastrophe in Iran.
Now, the Iranian regime has to choose between the bad and the worst. “It has been suggested among the public that the government has chosen security at a crossroads between public health and its own security” (Hamdeli newspaper). “People will starve to death before the Coronavirus”, added Zaali, head of the COVID-19 confrontation committee in Tehran.
In this regard, the Shargh newspaper wrote: “The state-nation relationship has reached a critical stage. The events of last November and January, the scope of the story in the city and the countryside, the nature of the chanting in the streets, and the low turnout in the parliamentary elections held in March along with the international community behavior and the United States by targeting the existence of the Islamic system have created a condition that requires principal decisions to get out of the crisis”.
In conclusion, the economic condition and the lack of financial resources are an excuse for the Iranian regime. Why has it been reluctant to adopt the quarantine solution, even knowing that it could cost 1 or 2 million deaths? The regime will not be able to escape its inevitable consequences. By adopting the “herd immunity” strategy, tens of thousands of Iranians along with the country’s economy, culture, and even the political establishment will all collapse.
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