The visit of Saeed Namaki, Iran’s minister of health, to Sistan and Baluchistan has created more problems for the embattled province, which is currently experiencing its third COVID-19 wave. Provincial hospitals that Namaki was due to visit dismissed patients after three days, regardless of their condition, to demonstrate that they had enough empty beds and were not in crisis. Local news outlets have reported on the early dismissals, which in a few cases are said to have resulted in patients’ deaths.
Fars News produced a photoreport showing hospitals in Zahedan hastily outfitted before the health minister’s visit to create a facade of normality.
Though authorities claim the pandemic is under control in the region, Sistan and Baluchistan remains in a dire situation. One member of an emergency aid group that was called to the province said that the daily coronavirus death toll was 22 or 23. Local sources claim that in Zabol County alone between 15 and 17 have been dying every day.
Moeinoddin Saeidi, the Majles representative for Chabahar, openly criticized the COVID-19 response in Sistan and Baluchistan, saying that “according to official statistics, 32 people have died; however, the number of deaths resulting from coronavirus in the villages are not recorded anywhere due to a lack of testing kits and ID cards.” In Sistan and Baluchistan Province, many people living on the margins of cities or in far-flung villages do not have Iran’s national ID card; as a result, they are frequently unable to access medical treatment, and their illnesses and deaths often go unrecorded.