The novel coronavirus has infected more than 8,000 people in Iran, making it one of the worst-hit countries in the world. The Iranian government's handling of the contagion has caused widespread panic among citizens. While citizens are unable to trust their government, they are resorting to information they come across on the internet. Misleading "cures" and preventive measures are being spread over social media. One such "cure" has claimed at least 44 lives and put hundreds in the hospital.
Ali Ehsanpour, a spokesperson of Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences, pointed out that people in the Khuzestan and Alborz provinces of Iran fell victim to a fake COVID-19 cure. Social media messages claimed that drinking alcohol would prevent the virus from infecting a person, and would help an infected person recover.
In Iran, the consumption of alcohol is permitted only for non-Iranian minorities. Unable to get their hands on drinkable alcohol, the panicked people tried to ingest either bootleg alcohol or industrial alcohol. Alcoholic beverages meant for consumption contains a varying concentration of ethanol. Industrial alcohol and bootleg alcohol contains methanol. Drinking methanol can severely impact the liver, cause blindness, and even lead to death.
In the province of Khuzestan, where there are over 70 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 218 people were hospitalised due to alcohol poisoning. The victims were admitted to various medical centers affiliated with Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences, ABC News reported. One of the patients lost their sight and many of them remain in critical condition. The number of victims killed by methanol poisoning has surpassed the number of coronavirus deaths in the Khuzestan province.
In the province of Alborz, seven more people have died from methanol poisoning. In total, 27 people were confirmed dead on Monday due to alcohol poisoning.
Citizens are choosing to believe in unscientific ways of preventing the virus. International sanctions have added to the pressure on the government which is plagued with domestic mismanagement. Inadequate supply of protective gear and sanitizers have crippled the struggling medical staff across the country. The Daily Mail pointed out that the country is already struggling to reduce the spread of the virus. Even with schools and universities shut down, the number of infected patients keeps rising.