By Jubin Katiraie
Iran’s state-run daily Shahrvand interviewed Dr. Minoo Mohrez, a member of the National Anti-Coronavirus Headquarters. Her remarks showed the extra-severe situation in Iran, in the sense of the coronavirus epidemy. Below are parts of this interview:
On this pretext, we have a conversation with Dr. Minoo Mohrez, an infectious disease specialist and a member of the scientific committee of the National Anti-Coronavirus Headquarters. Someone who believes that part of the current problems is due to the inattention of policymakers to the opinions of experts of the Scientific Committee of the National Anti-Coronavirus Headquarters. She speaks candidly about these challenges and believes that people need to take extra care of themselves, as the cost of a day hospitalization for a patient with coronavirus infection is much higher than the figures quoted by some media outlets. Someone who says she has not seen so many deaths during her 45 years of professional work.
Q: Why, despite the warnings of you and other experts about the third wave, and given that you have repeatedly warned of the danger, strictness was not done as it should be?
A: A big problem all over the world is that people still do not think COVID-19 is real. At first, they were scared, but then it became normal for them. Quarantine was practiced in many countries from the beginning, but its social, psychological, and economic effects were far worse than those of COVID-19, because in these conditions’ unemployment, poverty, and anxiety pile up.
Q: You mean, you know the people responsible?
A: People look at their rulers; Naturally, when telecommuting is abolished and schools and universities are reopened, it has consequences and makes people think that the situation is commensurate.
Q: How effective have the recent reopening and cancellation of telecommuting been?
A: During this period, wrong decisions were made in many countries, as well as in our country. The reopening of schools on September 5 was a mistake. Schools were also closed during the Iraq-Iran war. The children studied on the radio and television all the time. The same thing can be done now, my children studied in the same way at that time. Now the number of visitors has increased from March and April. In one major hospital, 60 people were hospitalized in one day. See how bad they were when they were hospitalized because we treat many people on an outpatient basis. I call on the people not to gather, even if they (the government) have a plan for them, not to participate in it and to protest. My residency was when diphtheria and tetanus were rampant but were not so deadly.
Q: You mentioned the dead and the sick above. Sometimes there are rumors that the statistics announced by the Ministry of Health every day are not true. what is your opinion?
A: The World Health Organization will accept your statistics when you have a positive PC. False positives are rare, but we have a false negative of 30 percent to 40 percent in tests, so 30 percent to 40 percent of our patients are not reported. Doctors should tell patients that if someone’s test is negative and they still have symptoms, it means that they have the coronavirus.
Q: Given the fact that the hospitals are full, what are the consequences of this situation?
A: The designated hospitals for the coronavirus are currently full. Even in the corridors of the hospital and on the couches of the hall, some patients have been given oxygen. Our doctors and staff are tired. We are used to working hard physically, but we are really stressed. The epidemic of no disease has never been so severe. They show that they are disinfecting school classrooms with pumps, but that is not enough. The virus is not transmitted through doors and walls. Most parts of Iran were red when education decided to reopen schools. They said the color of the areas does not matter! But is it important, now after this incident, all of Iran turned has red?
Q: Given that the incidence of familial infections has been reported to be higher than before, if a person in a family has symptoms, does the whole family need to have a PCR test?
A: Due to the high cost and limited nature of PCR testing, I do not recommend doing this as usual. In other parts of the world, where there are more possibilities, as soon as a person becomes ill, all those who have been in contact with him are tested, and if their test is positive, they are quarantined. But currently, such a possibility does not exist in Iran. The PCR test is expensive and costs about 7 to 8 million rials [$28-32]per test.
Given the quasi-explosive situation in Tehran, which accounts for two-thirds of the victims and about 60 percent of the infected, why not consider a special program for the capital?
A: I am a scientific member of the National Anti-Coronavirus Headquarters and I am not a decision-maker there. The Scientific Committee opposes any kind of gathering in these super-red conditions. Our views are reflected; however, the final decision is not our responsibility.
Q: That is, the decision-makers in the headquarters are indifferent to your opinions and those of other members of the scientific committee? Because what we hear from you is completely different from what we see in action.
A: Feedback from our talks will be provided by the Minister of Health at the Anti-Coronavirus Headquarters. As a rule, the opinions of the Ministry of Health and the scientific ommittees should be considered before making a decision. Finally, I do not know what happens when making a decision! I know that the Minister of Health is also worried about this situation and the advisers to the Minister also say that they cannot do anything more. Yes, it seems that decisions are made elsewhere. Health officials who specialize in this field express their views. But policymakers’ positions are different. Policymakers should take the recommendations of the Ministry of Health seriously because the science of treating infectious diseases is in this area, not in other ministries.