Surge in Subway Use Raises Alarm Amid Covid Third Wave
EghtesadOnline: Amid the third wave of Covid-19 infections in Iran, the number of subway passengers has recently risen by 10% and made the bad situation worse, Tehran Metro’s CEO said.
According to Farnoush Nobakht, the number of daily metro commuters currently reaches 930,000, which can be dangerous in terms of the coronavirus transmission, if passengers disregard Covid-related health protocols, ILNA reported.
“Tehran Metro technicians are regularly checking the trains' ventilation system to ensure they work properly. Probable technical flaws are also addressed promptly to prevent delays in train dispatch, which results in overcrowded wagons,” he said.
He asked subway passengers not to buy stuff from hawkers who are a fixture of Tehran’s subway, as they most probably spread the virus from one place to another.
Nobakht emphasized that no new plan will be implemented against the virus in Tehran’s subway and the protocols already underway will be adhered to. He urged the infected and suspect cases to avoid using public transportation, especially the metro.
“Almost everybody knows how to adhere to the health protocols during commutation via the public transportation system; they have a reliable amount of information about the virus, its behavior and how to protect themselves against it and there is nothing new to mention,” he added.
The subway staff and officials can only notify the few passengers ignoring them about the rules.
The official has repeatedly warned people against undertaking outdoor activities while urging commuters to use the subway in less crowded hours (7-8 a.m. and 1-2 p.m.) as far as possible.
He also urged the general public to use facemasks and observe social distancing in the subway as much as possible.
The metro police stop passengers not wearing facemasks from passing through the entry gates and politely ask them to purchase one from the facemask stall in the metro lobby.
"At present, over 90% of the passengers adhere to the facemask rule. This can have a controlling effect on the Covid-19 transmission rate, as simply wearing a mask even in a partially crowded train wagon can considerably reduce the risk of getting infected," he said.
Nobakht emphasized that the strict measures are for the public good and for their own safety.
“Maximum care should be taken because the virus is still spreading and things could get worse before they get better,” he said.
Pointing to the fact Tehran Metro is providing transportation services to the best of its capacities, Nobakht said the US sanctions since 2018 and the declining value of rial against hard currencies have made it a tough task to expand and renew the ailing public transportation in Tehran.
On Wednesday, the US dollar was traded at 277,000 rials in Tehran while it hardly fetched 42,000 rials in March 2018.
Mohammad Alikhani, the head of Tehran City Council’s Transportation Commission, said the induction of more train cars to Tehran’s subway system is the ideal remedy both for meeting the recommended social distancing to curb virus transmission in the trains and traffic congestion in the city.
He added that a train wagon cost 50 billion rials a couple of years ago, but now the price reaches 200 billion rials, which Tehran Municipality cannot presently afford.
Covid-19 Third Wave
In early September, Iran’s death toll due to the coronavirus pandemic crossed the 22,000 mark, as the country’s health minister warned that public complacency could trigger a third wave of infections.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki criticized negligence in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak and said, “I am concerned that a lack of care could trigger another wave of the disease.”
Some 99 Iranian counties are on red alert and there are no longer any green, or coronavirus-free, zones in Iran.
In addition, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had said that school reopenings on Sept. 5 and the looming influenza season would also trigger another peak soon.
By Sept. 23, the coronavirus has infected 429,193 people in Iran, 24,656 out of which have died. According to the Health Ministry, 363,737 patients have so far recovered from the disease.
The tally of worldwide coronavirus infections stood at 31.78 million on Friday and fatalities surpassed 975,000.