The government of Iran is warning citizens not to drink methanol as a way to prevent COVID-19 because at least 300 people have died and thousands have gotten sick by ingesting the poison.
In a country where no one trusts what the government is saying about the pandemic, there have been dozens of fake cures and preventive measures all over the Iranian internet. This has resulted in death, blindness, and paralysis for thousands of people.
Iranian media report nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the Islamic Republic, where drinking alcohol is banned and where those who do rely on bootleggers. An Iranian doctor helping the country’s Health Ministry told The Associated Press on Friday the problem was even greater, giving a death toll of around 480 with 2,850 people sickened.
The poisonings come as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.
“Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts here,” said Dr. Hossein Hassanian, an adviser to Iran’s Health Ministry who gave the higher figures to the AP. “We have to both cure the people with alcohol poisoning and also fight the coronavirus.”
How does an idiotic meme like that get started? It begins and ends with the people’s lack of trust in what their government is telling them.
But in messages forwarded and forwarded again, Iranian social media accounts in Farsi falsely suggested a British school teacher and others cured themselves of the coronavirus with whiskey and honey, based on a tabloid story from early February. Mixed with messages about the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, some wrongly believed drinking high-proof alcohol would kill the virus in their bodies.
Uniquely, the Iranian people aren’t letting a public health crisis where social distancing is vital to fight it, get in the way of their religious observances. Hundreds of thousands have continued to make pilgrimages to holy sites in Iran and the police appear powerless to stop them.
The Masumeh Shrine at Qom, the main pilgrimage site in the city, was finally closed on Monday. The Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, which attracts 25 million pilgrims annually, was closed on the same day. But businesses and restaurants in Tehran remain open. Many citizens dismiss advice regarding limiting social contact. The airport remains in operation. Local health authorities appear largely to be left to themselves to combat the spread and deal with existing cases as best they can.
Iran may be the very last country where the virus is brought under control, but it won’t lead to revolution. Besotted with religion and false ideology, the Iranian people have yet to wake up to the reality of their situation. The government just doesn’t care very much if they live or die which means it’s every man for himself and if a citizen hears Mohammed next door swearing that drinking methanol will save him, he’s likely to take him up on that.