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EghtesadOnline: The number of severely ill Covid-19 patients in intensive care units hit an all-time high in Iran on Monday, with 3,819 occupied beds, health officials said.

“Over 3,800 ICU patients are in serious conditions,” Health Ministry Spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari was quoted as saying by ISNA in a daily readout as the coronavirus crisis continued to escalate across the country.

Iran recorded 2,434 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing its national tally to 293,606, the 10th largest in the world. Overnight deaths dropped to 212, down by 4 from a day earlier, which took the country’s total fatalities to 15,912.

Pointing to the soaring Covid-19 figures, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said public complacency in late May and June has triggered a second wave of infections that is now afflicting Iran.

The deputy minister noted that no vaccine has been developed for malaria or AIDS, two-decade-old infectious diseases and said, “There is no shortcut to eliminate Covid-19, the only promising option is a vaccine, which might be made available at least a year from now.”

According to Harirchi, Iran’s only viable option for now is to bring about “social and behavioral change” among the public.

Tehran will decide whether to extend lockdown disciplines by the weekend, depending on the number of provincewide hospitalizations and deaths.

Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei was hospitalized on Monday, a few days after he began to show symptoms. 

Mayor of Mashhad, capital of the eastern Khorasan Razavi Province, also caught the virus. The region is the worst-off among the 25 provinces grappling with alarming or emergency situation, an official with the Health Ministry said.



Controversial Test

Despite official announcement on the unchanged date for the national university entrance exam, the government is facing mounting pressure to postpone the critical test for a second time.

On Monday, Hoseinali Shahriari, the head of Majlis Health Commission, reminded President Hassan Rouhani of its possible widespread repercussions on the country’s caseload and deaths.

Harirchi, however, said the exam should not be further delayed since the pandemic will only get worse in fall and winter.

“Students suspected to have the virus will take the test in a separate location. There will be a 1.8-2-meter distance between candidates,” Harirchi reassured.

Minou Mohrez, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, vehemently called for the exam’s cancellation. 

“The disease can spread when [students] sit in an enclosed space for hours. Any gathering in any place must be cancelled, be it a wake, wedding or a restaurant,” Mohrez said.

With the potential participation of over one million students, the national entrance exam is scheduled for August 20-21. Families of the candidates have been frequenting the Health Ministry to seek the test’s cancellation.

Equipped laboratories across the country have administered 2.35 million tests to identify infections.

Over 255,000 patients have recovered from the respiratory illness in Iran.