Iranian scientists are in a political quagmire. Eight months of deceitful coronavirus guidance has shattered the regime’s authority. A new virus has swept across Iran: distrust.
Covid-19 has struck during a very crucial era in Iran. In 2019, public confidence in Iranian authorities was crushed when demonstrations over petrol prices in more than one hundred cities resulted in over 1,500 deaths, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps used missiles to shoot down a Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in Tehran. When the coronavirus first swept across the nation in February 2020, the government prioritised political aims. A calendar of events made social distancing – the most effective means of controlling the virus – all the more difficult. These included the celebrations marking the parliamentary elections on 21 February, the revolution’s anniversary on 11 February and Nowruz – the Iranian New Year on 20 March.
Officials first reported the deaths of Iranians on 19 February – but reports say cases entered the country at least ten days earlier by passengers travelling on Mahan Airlines from Wuhan, where the outbreak began. The government opposed full national lockdowns citing economic constraints in rural and lower income urban areas as another reason to avoid a ban on movement. Religious authorities in the holy city of Qom, located some 130 kilometres from the capital city of Tehran, refused to close holy shrines. They believed sacred protection would prevent the virus spreading. The Iranian administration failed to identify and isolate people who came into contact with the virus. Officials could not convince the clergy in Qom the situation was grave enough to take immediate social distancing measures to stop transmission of the virus.