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April 15, 2020

Coronavirus in Iran: 4/15

This week, despite the opening of “low-risk businesses”, economic pain caused by the pandemic is still gripping Iran. So far, the government’s stimulus packages have been limited and critics say are not enough to deal with the breadth of the crisis. See our breakdown of events below: 

Potential Resurgence in Hotspots Around the Country

  • As of April 14th, some 4,683 Iranians have died from the virus while 74,877 have been infected with the disease. For the first time, COVID deaths dipped below three digits per day on the 14th, with 98 Iranians dying from the virus. Successive reductions in the officially reported deaths per day due to COVID-19 have led some to say that Iran is “flattening the curve.” However, a newly released government report shows the virus resurging in three provinces.  
  • This news comes after the Rouhani administration loosened social distancing rules and allowed “low-risk business” to resume work. Public transport, albeit with strict protocols, resumed normal activity and pictures of overcrowded buses and metro wagons prompted a rebuke from the government’s Coronavirus task force head, saying that Tehran might experience a second exponential increase in COVID-19 cases following the resumption of work.  
  • On April 11th, a day before public transport was meant to open, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said more than 25% of all coronavirus victims in Iran contracted the virus in public transport such as buses and the metro. His comments laid in stark contrast the potential effects of opening up the economy too early and those who have been feeling the financial pain from social distancing. 

Economic Pain Growing with Few Government Options To Lessen Burdens

  • In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, millions of Iranians have lost their jobs. According to the Rouhani administration spokesman, Ali Rabiee, 7 million Iranians either lost their jobs or their employment has been temporarily suspended or downgraded. New projections from the IMF forecast that Iran’s economy will contract by 6% following the drop in oil prices and the pandemic. Previous forecasts of Iran’s 2020 GDP said economic growth would be closer to zero.  
  • According to a recent poll by the Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA), 70% of Tehran residents said their savings will last two months or less and are not able to cope with the financial pressures of the virus and social distancing policies. 
  • In an attempt to stave off some of the impacts of the crisis, 3 million Iranian households were provided welfare packages. Citing budget restraints, Rouhani said the government may extend it to another million households. Many have seen this move as inadequate in dealing with the magnitude of the economic crisis.  
  • As the crisis got worse, the government announced that it would make available $5 billion in low-interest rate loans to struggling businesses. It has also increased the funding for unemployment insurance by another $300 million.

Many Say It’s Not Enough

  • Still, many argue that these measures have not been enough. Economists in an open letter to Rouhani call for more aggressive measures, advocating for cash payouts to low-income families of 1 million tomans, or approximately $70, per person.  
  • A letter published by labor organizers on April 12 says day laborers are not covered by the government unemployment compensation scheme and the government “cannot urge them to stay home and ignore poverty.” The letter also notes that many protective items have become so expensive that ordinary people cannot afford them, including latex gloves that have almost tripled in price since the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • With the government’s economic stimulus being seen as insufficient, calls have grown for Supreme Leader Khamenei to use the funds at his disposal to assist ordinary Iranians suffering from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.  
  • The Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Islamic Republic), a newspaper funded by Khamenei’s office, published an op-ed by an old guard of Khamenei’s close circle, Masih Mohajeri. He writes that “no economic support by ordinary people can alleviate the hardships imposed on the poor by this outbreak,” adding that “big financial powers should come to solve the problem and rescue the people.” 
  • He goes on to name three of the richest organizations operating under Khamenei’s direct supervision, arguing that “these organization’s assets belong to the people and should be spent for them.”  
  • Khamenei recently approved a one billion Euro cash transfer from Iran’s sovereign wealth fund to the government, but Rouhani’s government has yet to confirm they have received the money or how they plan on spending it. 

How Can I Help?

  • Relief International has launched a campaign to assist in the response to the Coronavirus in Iran, and will be providing face masks, sanitizer, test kits and treatment to affected individuals. Relief International has a license to conduct relief work in Iran and accepts contributions from Americans. 
  • Moms Against Poverty has rolled out a campaign to deliver relief to address the Coronavirus crisis, and will be providing masks, surgical gloves, disinfectant wipes, alcohol wipes, and hand sanitizers to medical clinics and hospitals serving the vulnerable communities, as well as food and other basic necessities to children and families affected. They have a permit to engage in relief efforts and are accepting donations to support their work. 
  • The Child Foundation is collecting donations to provide medical supplies for healthcare workers and communities in Afghanistan and Iran. They plan to shift their resources as needed based on which governments are accepting medical equipment and which communities are in most need.

You may find our previous coronavirus updates here: 

Coronavirus Update: 4/08

Coronavirus Update: 4/01

Coronavirus Update: 3/25

Coronavirus Update: 3/19

Coronavirus Update: 3/10

Coronavirus Update: 2/25

 

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