Report Open Access

Iran and COVID-19: The Unfolding of a Humanitarian Disaster

Vahid Bokharaie

Summary of the Report

In the following report, using a model adapted to real-world data of the spread of COVID-19, it is shown that if COVID-19 is spread in Iran without any containment policy, which is more or less the case at the moment of writing this text, it can lead to disastrous consequences. Although the reports show that the current situation in Iran is already very bad, simulations show that the worse is yet to come. The peak number of infected people in Iran will probably happen in 1.5-2 months from now. Simulations show that in an uncontained human population with the age structure of the Iranian population, at the peak of the infection, around 11% of the population will be infected simultaneously. And eventually, 65% of the population will be infected. For a country as big as Iran, these peak values might reach in different days in different cities or regions. But all are expected to reach these peak values days or weeks apart. If we assume only 5% of those infected with COVID-19 need respiratory or intensive care, the total number of hospital beds needed at the peak of the epidemic in Iran is around 467, 000 beds. Also, in the uncontained scenario, eventually 65% of the population will be infected with COVID-19 in a matter of months, which is around 55 million people for a country of around 85 million inhabitants. Even with a mortality rate of 0.2%, which admittedly is optimistic for such a huge number of potential patients, total death would amount to around 110, 000 people.

To avoid such an unprecedented disaster, there is an immediate need to implement effective containment strategies. I have presented a detailed quantitative analysis of the effectiveness of various containment policies. The most effective, among the ones humanly possible, is a total lock-down of the population, closing down all governmental offices, companies, banks and schools and forcing people to stay home. A policy which is already enforced by governments in different countries around the world. Simulations show that if such a policy is imposed today, it can bring down the total number of infected to around 7% of the population, down from 65%. But even in such a case, considering the current level of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Iranian population, eradicating it would take months. It needs patience and determination and a long-term strategy to manage the number of infected people in the population until the vaccine for COVID-19 is publicly available.

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