03/11/2020, 09.28
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Tehran's doctors and nurses at risk without masks and gloves

To date, 8042 cases and 291 coronavirus victims have been recorded in the Islamic Republic. The most critical situation in the northern province of Gilan. Desperate need for N95 masks. US sanctions complicate the situation even more.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Healthcare workers are at the forefront of the fight against the spread of coronavirus, in Iran as in the rest of the world, and they are among the categories most at risk. However, in the Islamic Republic - where there are 8042 cases and 291 deaths to date - doctors and nurses have to face the challenge without adequate protective measures, from masks to gloves, to avoid getting infected by covid-19 positive patients.

The most critical situation is in the northern province of Gilan, one of the epicentres of the epidemic, where five doctors and three nurses recently died from Covid-19. The victims include Vahid Monsef, a doctor specializing in emergencies and associated with the local medical university, who passed away on 9 March.

Narjes Khanalizadeh, one of the first nurses to succumb to the new coronavirus, was also from Gilan. The woman died in February after contracting the disease from patients being treated at the Lahijan hospital.

Mohammad Delsuz, head of Gilan's nurse union, confirms the "desperate need for N95 masks", whose stocks ended on March 9th. Field operators now use "homemade masks," he adds, "that don't meet safety standards." In addition to the masks, there is an extreme need for "hundreds" of latex gloves.

Mehdi Hosseininejad, head of Kerman's industrial and mining department, points out that over 41% of the newly infected last weekend were health workers. Mohammad Mirza Beigi, head of the national body that brings together nurses, adds that doctors, but above all nurses, play a strategic role in the fight against disease and are among the people "most at risk of contracting the infection". If they do not have a mask, gloves and protective clothing available, "they will fall ill or die" and "who will be left to take care of the sick?".

Iran is more vulnerable because of the repercussions on its health system of sanctions and the "maximum pressure" imposed by US President Donald Trump following his decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the punitive measures of the White House "have drastically reduced" the import of humanitarian products and basic necessities "including life-saving medicines and medical materials".

Most of the products used for personal protection, such as masks and many disinfectants, are made within the country. However, since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic there have been widespread deficiencies in all 31 provinces, hospitals and health facilities are on the verge of collapse. In early March, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent aid to the Islamic Republic, including 15 thousand protective equipment for those who work on the front line.

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