(Gloucestercitynews.net)(May 1, 2020)--An estimated 700 people have died in Iran after drinking bootleg alcohol. The deaths occurred after a coronavirus cure hoax surfaced online, leading to the high rate of alcohol poisoning. Health workers in Iran have publicly announced the deaths to warn Iranian citizens not to fall for the hoax. Since early March, the number of alcohol-related deaths has grown ten-fold. The total number of deaths due to the hoax is expected to be announced as 728 as of today. Medical experts have taken to the state-run television to debunk the claim that alcohol cures COVID-19, saying that "This misconception has caused even children to drink alcohol … which can lead to death and blindness."
The Middle East is being particularly hard hit by the global pandemic, and Iran has confirmed 5,806 corona deaths and over 91,000 confirmed cases of the virus. The addition of alcohol poisoning is only adding to the strain on Iranian health services, already under pressure from the pandemic and US sanctions. The country is struggling to combat the spread of fake remedies, despite the elimination of free press in Iran, and the fact that the Iranian government downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 in the early months has led to a rising mistrust of official statements., That is only compounding the issue of fake corona cures.
In Iran, companies that manufacture toxic ethanol must add artificial colors to the liquid. This is intended to help citizens from confusing it with wound-cleaning alcohol. The problem is that alcohol production is banned in Iran, although there is a black market for those that want to drink in private. Black market alcohol is often mixed with methanol and a small amount of bleach so that the coloring added to toxic ethanol is disguised. Unfortunately, the result is a drink that can cause brain and organ damage, chest pains, blindness, and hyperventilation, in serious cases, a coma or death is common.
Dr. Hossein Hassanian, one of the advisors to the Iranian Health Ministry, announced this week that, "Other countries have only one problem . . . the new coronavirus pandemic . . . we are fighting on two fronts here. We have to cure the people with alcohol poisoning and fight the coronavirus." This issue is made even worse after Iran's government approved an increase in the production of alcohol if it was being used for medical reasons. For a country already struggling in the face of US sanctions, the pandemic and the rise of misinformation are having a devastating effect.
As US President Donald Trump continues to ward off calls of incompetence after the disastrous press conference where he discussed the possibility of injecting bleach to combat the coronavirus, Iran is seeing exactly what would happen when citizens start following suit. For the Iranian government already struggling to get access to medical supplies due to the US sanctions, the emergence of this new threat to the health of its citizens is not going to make tackling COVID-19 any easier.
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