Coronavirus & Sanctions Have Plunged Iran's Currency To Lowest Level In History

On Monday Iran announced it suffered its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus since the pandemic began, with 272 confirmed dead, up from the 251 deceased from the disease the day before. The grim report also came alongside news that two senior government officials were infected - the head of Iran's atomic energy organization as well as the country's vice president.

Out of a total population of just over 80 million, Iran has tallied more than 508,000 confirmed cases and 29,070 total deaths as of Tuesday, however, the true number of cases has long been believed to be much higher, even in the millions according to prior estimates of President Rouhani.

Headlines of the record day for virus deaths plunged Iran's currency to its lowest level ever. This also as there's been a steady rise in daily cases, including 3822 new cases from the 24 hours of Saturday into Sunday, according to the AP.

Tehran file image

The Islamic Republic remains the hardest hit country in the broader Middle East region, and early this year was the first to witness a major outbreak outside of China alongside Italy following discovery of the virus in Wuhan, China.

"Money exchange shops in Tehran sold the US dollar at 315,000 rials on Sunday, compared to what was 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers," AP notes.

And on Monday it slipped slightly further:

At the same time its spiraling currency, the rial, has been consistently falling to historic lows against the dollar, trading at 317,000 to the dollar on Tuesday afternoon London time, according to rial exchange site Bonbast.com. The greenback has gained 138% against the rial year-to-date. 

Meanwhile, Iran's leaders have blamed the United States for severely exacerbating the impact of the pandemic, essentially kicking the country while it's already down, choking off even humanitarian and medical supplies via sanctions and threats against those willing to trade with Iran.

“Amid Covid19 pandemic, U.S. regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted last week. “Iranians WILL survive this latest of cruelties.”

He charged that Washington is conspiring to starve the Iranian population in a “crime against humanity” and vowed that “Culprits & enablers—who block our money—WILL face justice.”

The statements came after the US Treasury unveiled sweeping sanctions on Iran's already struggling financial sector, including eighteen banks, including one tied to Iran's military.

In a new statement the head of Iran's coronavirus task force warns that hospitals are overwhelmed: “We had not experienced this level of deterioration in the past seven or eight months... some hospitals are full and unable to admit new patients,” Masoud Mardani told Financial Times. “Continuation of this trend could lead to an eye-catching rise in the number of deaths.”