New Covid Surge Could Close 1 Million Businesses
EghtesadOnline: Iran Chamber of Guilds has issued a statement expressing concerns regarding the economic implications of a new surge in Covid-19 cases.
“Official figures show an increase in the number of infections due to the decline in compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols during the Iranian New Year holidays. More cities and counties are falling in the high-risk red zone for coronavirus transmission and widespread closures of businesses are likely to ensue,” the statement was cited by Mehr News Agency.
“If more cities, including Tehran, Karaj and Isfahan, move into the red zone of the country’s color-coded coronavirus framework, more than one million businesses affiliated to ICG will be shut down and three million people will become jobless.”
Notably, only essential businesses categorized as Group I, such as bakeries, supermarkets, grocery stores, car shops, chain stores, health centers, pharmacies and print shops, are allowed to remain open in red zones.
Bracing for Fourth Wave
The Health Ministry has announced the emergence of a fourth wave of coronavirus infections in the province of Tehran, as local officials called for tightening restrictions to halt a rebound in cases.
“We’re witnessing a 37% surge in the number of hospitalized patients compared to last week,” an official with the province’s coronavirus taskforce, Nader Tavakkoli, was quoted as saying by ISNA earlier this week.
Tavakkoli raised concerns over the return of employees to work following the New Year holidays when millions of Iranians crisscrossed the country and intensified the virus transmission.
“To fully realize the effect of the travels on the spread of the disease, we need to wait for 10 more days. What is evident to us now is that the fourth wave of the pandemic has hit Tehran,” he said.
Tehran’s Governor General Anoushirvan Mohseni Bandpey pointed out that 10 cities in the province, including the capital Tehran, have been declared high-risk “red” and “orange” zones.
“In cities color-coded as red such as Tehran, one-third of employees are required to work from home, while in ‘orange’ cities, half of the employees need to telecommute,” Bandpey said.
The official called for the strict enforcement of the law to slow transmission rates, as hospitals began to reject elective surgeries to save the dwindling number of beds for severe cases of the coronavirus.
Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had estimated on Saturday that two of the country’s largest cities, Tehran and Isfahan, will be placed on red alert by next week.
Harirchi on Sunday said the daily death toll is predicted to remain above the 100 mark “for now”, making for 12% of daily fatalities in the country.
“We have 1,000 to 1,050 infections in Iran daily, so when there are 123 coronavirus fatalities in one day, that constitutes 12% of the country’s mortality rate,” he added.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced they are revising the criteria that influence the color-code assigned to a city to include factors such as the mutated Covid strain.
The British variant of the coronavirus is reported to be highly contagious, as it spreads across western areas of Iran and moves toward the east.
The remote working program of government employees will remain in place as before, i.e., the highest-ranking executive in charge of the management of the organization will decide upon the presence or teleworking of employees.
According to Alaeddin Rafizadeh, a senior official with the Administrative and Employment Affairs Organization, the bylaw on remote working of employees as per the color-coded system was issued on Nov. 17, 2020, and remains in effect today.
According to a government classification, “red”, “yellow” and “white” indicate the R value, or the number of people a patient can pass the disease to, in a respective county.
“Our emphasis is on preventing interruption of services; people must have access to essential services at all times,” he told ISNA.
The Administrative and Employment Affairs Organization has divided services into two categories: essential and normal services. In yellow zones, 100% of employees of agencies that provide essential services need to be present at the workplace. But the physical presence of employees of other agencies would be restricted to two-thirds of full capacity.
In orange zones, the physical presence of employees of agencies that provide essential services would be restricted to two-thirds of the total capacity. But the physical presence of employees of other agencies would be restricted to 50% of full capacity.
In red zones, the physical presence of employees of agencies that provide essential services would be restricted to 50%, provided that it won’t cause interruption in service delivery. The physical presence of employees of other agencies would be restricted to one-third of full capacity.
Rafizadeh noted that in all organizations, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and women with children under age six must be placed in top priority group for teleworking.