Coronavirus latest news: NHS chief warns public not to be complacent as death toll passes 1,000 in UK

Fake remedies killing desperate Iranians

People in protective clothing walk past rows of beds at a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for coronavirus patients set up by the Iranian army at the international exhibition centre

Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Standing over the still body of a five-year-old boy wearing nothing but a plastic nappy, an Iranian health care worker in a hazmat suit and mask begged the public for just one thing: Stop drinking industrial alcohol over fears about the new coronavirus.

The boy, now blind after his parents gave him toxic methanol in the mistaken belief it protects against the virus, is just one of hundreds of victims of an epidemic inside the pandemic now gripping Iran.

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.

The Islamic Republic has reported more than 29,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,200 deaths from the virus; the highest toll of any country in the Middle East. International experts also fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases, as officials for days played down the virus ahead of a parliamentary election.