More than 700 people in Iran were killed due to the false belief that toxic methanol cures the coronavirus, an official stated on April 27. The Iranian Health Ministry released the death toll and it is higher than the number of people who died due to the virus.
Hossein Hassanian, an adviser to the ministry, said that the difference in death tallies is because some alcohol poisoning victims died outside of the hospital. Hassanian told The Associated Press that some 200 people died outside of hospitals that are still being recorded.
Alcohol poisoning in Iran
Alcohol poisoning cases in Iran increased by ten times over in the past year, according to a government report that was released earlier in April, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The national coroner's authority said that alcohol poisoning killed 728 Iranians between Feb. 20 and April 7. In 2019, there were only 66 deaths from alcohol poisoning.
The Iranian health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour said on a state TV reported on April 26 that 525 people have died from swallowing toxic methanol alcohol since February 20. Jahanpour said that a total of 5,011 people had been poisoned from methanol alcohol. He added that around 90 people have lost their eyesight or are suffering from eye damage from alcohol poisoning.
Hassanian also stated that the final tally of people who lost their eyesight and those who are suffering from eye damage could be much higher. Iran is now facing the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East with 5,806 deaths and more than 91,000 confirmed cases.
Dangers of methanol
Methanol can't be tasted or smelled in drinks. It can cause delayed organ and brain damage. The symptoms of methanol poisoning include chest pain, hyperventilation, blindness, and coma.
The government in Iran mandates that manufacturers of toxic methanol add artificial color to their products so that the public can automatically tell it apart from ethanol, which is a kind of alcohol that is used in cleaning wounds. Ethanol is found in alcoholic beverages but its production is not legal in the country.
There are some bootleggers in Iran that use methanol, adds some bleach to mask the added color before selling it, and advertising it as drinkable. Methanol can also contaminate traditionally fermented alcohol. Drinking alcohol in Iran is prohibited but minority Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians can drink alcoholic beverages in private.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, the government in Iran announced that it would issue permits for new alcohol factories and they will do it as soon as possible. Iran has currently some 40 alcohol factories that have been allocated for pharmaceutical and sanitizing items. Before the coronavirus outbreak, the Iranian economy was struggling under U.S sanctions because it was blocking the sale of its crude oil abroad.
Coronavirus in Iran
Iran's President Rouhani ordered shopping centers, bazaars, schools, and universities across the country to shut down. The only exceptions are pharmacies and grocery stores. Religious sites were also closed down.
Iran went on lockdown for only two weeks before reopening businesses however, the government still wants the public to follow coronavirus guidelines such as social distancing and hand-washing.