More than 40 workers of Urmia Petrochemical Company (UPC)infected with coronavirus amidst the lifting of Iran’s lockdown!

The Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR) has learned of the worrying development that, amidst the theocratic regime’s recent lifting of Iran’s lockdown – having claimed that it had somehow contained and countered the devastating coronavirus outbreak there – 40 workers at the Urmia Petrochemical Company (UPC) in the northwest of Iran have been infected with the virus in one worrying example of its apparent resurgence in the country.

The first case of COVID-19 was identified among UPC workers in early March 2020, but the complex’s CEO refused to halt production there even during the government-ordered closure of production units and forced the workers to attend – in one of countless examples of this occurrence even as the disease ravaged the country.  As a result, more workers are now suffering from coronavirus.  40 workers at the complex have tested positive and are now subsequently quarantined.  And, yet still, the CEO has refused to stop production despite the risks posed to the workers, their families and community and the real danger of another according leap in coronavirus infection and death rates locally.

In a report on Tuesday 21 April, the “Naft Ma” news website reported that the coronavirus pandemic had indeed reached the UPC complex and quoted a worker there as stating that the first case of the disease had been registered on 6 March 2020.  So far, 80 workers at the complex have been tested for coronavirus and between 40 to 45 are believed to have tested positive.  Those infected workers are now in quarantine, while six of them were admitted into intensive care such was the seriousness of their condition.

CODIR has laid the blame – and continues to do so – for these apparent resurgences squarely with the theocratic regime, whose at best haphazard response and mixed messages have been the main cause of the unchecked spread of coronavirus in Iran.

Jamshid Ahmadi, Assistant General Secretary of CODIR, has condemned the authorities’ cavalier attitude to workers wellbeing.  “The Iranian government has clearly stated that it cannot any longer economically sustain the measures advised by the WHO as essential in countering the pandemic and the threat it poses.  This has resulted in their abandoning of even the extremely limited and nominal measures put in place as Iran became the regional epicentre of the pandemic…  There now exists the spectre of a devastating resurgence of the disease throughout an already badly hit country, where any real picture of the toll taken so far is yet to emerge.”

According to the UPC workers, masks and disinfectants have now been distributed among their workforce but sanitation and general hygiene standards at the complex remain extremely poor causing them very real concern.

Nader Ghazipour, a conservative politician for Urmia in the Iranian parliament, has also confirmed the outbreak of coronavirus amongst the UPC workers.  According to Ghazipour, management at the complex continued production there despite the government-mandated shutdown of production units which should have covered this workplace.  Work continued in complete ignorance of any health and hygiene protocols, thus resulting in the infection of several workers.  Ghazipour put the number of infected workers at 37.

However, Karim Deljavan, CEO of the UPC, defended the continued production despite the national emergency.  According to him, the complex should operate around the clock and that “stopping the process would have resulted in a delay to its reopening by a week to 10 days.”

According to the workers, masks and disinfectants have been distributed among the workers in the complex, but the general hygiene in the workplace is poor. Nader Ghazizipour, a representative of Urmia in the Iranian Parliament, also confirmed that Urmia Petrochemical workers had contracted corona. According to Ghazipour, Urmia Petrochemical managers continued production during the government planned closure of production units, without observing health and hygiene protocols, and caused workers to suffer from corona. He put the number of workers with corona at 37.

Karim Deljavan, CEO of Urmia Petrochemical Complex, however, defended the early reopening of the complex. According to him, the unit should operate around the clock, and “stopping the process will delay its reopening by a week to 10 days.”


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