Months into pandemic, Iran sees worst wave of virus deaths

Months into pandemic, Iran sees worst wave of virus deaths


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's capital has run out of intensive care beds as the country confronts a new surge of infections that is filling hospitals and cemeteries alike. The single-day death toll hit a record high three times this week.

Eight months after the pandemic first stormed Iran, pummeling its already weakened economy and sickening officials at the highest levels of its government, authorities have not been able to prevent its spread. In a country devastated by American sanctions, the government considers an economic shutdown like the ones imposed in Europe and the United States impossible.

“The pandemic will not get any better in our country soon,” said Mohadeseh Karim, a 23-year-old college student in Tehran. “It is only getting worse day by day.”

On social media, Iranians describe chaotic scenes at overwhelmed hospitals. On state TV, gravediggers can be seen breaking new ground in vast cemeteries for virus victims, as the daily death toll shattered records Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. A top health official announced that overall hospitalizations in Tehran, the capital, were up 12% more than in even previous virus surges. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered military hospitals to boost their capacities.

“The situation is very critical,” said Mino Mohraz, a member of the country’s coronavirus task force who said intensive care units in the capital are full. “There is not an empty bed for any new patient.”

Contradictory messages and measures have plagued the government’s virus response, helping propel the country's toll of 29,600 reported deaths to No. 1 in the Middle East. At first, officials sought to play down the virus, and international experts accused them of covering up the scale of the outbreak.

Authorities declined to close crowded shrines and instead rallied...

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