Iran held its annual parade on Friday to mark Army Day, but instead of the usual display of missiles and planes, the Islamic Republic flaunted its disinfectant trucks and mobile hospitals as the nation continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The “Defenders of the Homeland, Helpers of Health” parade was held in front of a group of military officers wearing face masks. Last year the parade showcased Iran’s domestically made fighter jets in front of crowds.
“Due to health and social protocols, it is not possible to hold a parade of soldiers,” President Hassan Rouhani told soldiers, according to the Reuters news agency. “The enemy now is hidden and doctors and nurses are [instead] at the frontlines of the battlefield.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled Wednesday what it claimed was an Iranian-made smart system that can identify coronavirus in the environment instantly.
“The system can spot the coronavirus-contaminated area from 100 meters away in 5 seconds and it does not need to take blood from patients and has been tested in different hospitals and showed positive performance in 80 percent of cases,” said IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami.
He explained that the device, dubbed “Mosta’an,” can “detect every coronavirus infection case within a 100-meter radius by creating a magnetic field and using a bipolar virus inside the device,” Salami said, failing to provide further details.
Salami claimed the Mosta’an was being adapted to eventually detect any virus.
He said that the system, invented by scientists from the Basij paramilitary forces, could be used both for mass screening of people and spotting contaminated areas, noting that it could also minimize the amount of disinfectants being used in areas that aren’t contaminated.
The device was immediately mocked online by Iranians, who regarded the claims as highly suspicious. Iran has been known to make dubious claims of scientific and military breakthroughs without much basis.
Iran said on Friday 89 more people have died from the novel coronavirus, as the country’s official fatalities remained in double figures for a fourth day.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a news conference that the latest deaths brought the overall toll to 4,958.
It was the sixth day that the official fatality rate has dropped in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.
Jahanpour added that 1,499 new infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 79,494 from 319,879 tests.
Of those confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus and admitted to hospital, 54,064 had been discharged after recovering.
Another 3,563 were in critical condition.
Ever since the country reported its first deaths two months ago, there has been speculation abroad that the tolls are higher than officially announced.
A parliamentary report on Tuesday said the officially announced figures were based only on those hospitalized with “severe symptoms.”
It said the death toll was estimated to be as much as 80 percent more and infections “eight to 10 times” higher.
The health ministry has confirmed the numbers may be higher due to limited testing.
The government has struggled to contain the outbreak and keep Iran’s fragile and sanctions-hit economy running.
It shut schools and universities, postponed major events and imposed a range of other restrictions, but it has stopped short of ordering lockdowns.
Iran is to allow small businesses in Tehran to reopen on Saturday, following similar measures for those outside the capital last week.
The move has faced criticism from health experts and even some authorities, but top officials argue that sanctions-hit Iran cannot afford to shut down its economy.