The Slatest

Hundreds Die in Iran From Bootleg Alcohol Being Peddled Online as Fake Coronavirus Remedy

Men in masks walk near a mural featuring an image of  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
An Iranian man wearing a mask walks under a mural bearing an image of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, on March 4.
Atta Kenare/Getty Images

Iran, perhaps more than any other country so far, has struggled to meet the challenge of the coronavirus. The country has now recorded nearly 3,000 deaths, which suggests the actual number of cases of the virus is far higher than the roughly 30,000 confirmed so far. The virus has hit the country hard, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities including the lack of resources due to economic sanctions, limited state administrative capacity, an ill-equipped health system, and public mistrust of the government, which has floundered and fudged its way into a dark corner with the virus. The extent of the regime’s waning domestic credibility and the corrosive power of misinformation was on full display this week when, according to the Associated Press, Iranian media reported that several hundred Iranians had died of methanol poisoning and potentially thousands more were sickened when they ingested bootleg alcohol with the mistaken belief that it protected against the coronavirus.

“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,” the AP reports. “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.”

Official Iranian media reports say nearly 300 people have died and more than 1,000 have fallen ill from drinking one of many fake coronavirus remedies being spread on social media. The AP reports that Iran’s Health Ministry puts the numbers even higher, counting nearly 480 dead and 2,850 people sickened. Alcohol is banned in Iran, but bootleggers craft dubious homemade concoctions that sometimes contain harmful chemicals, and then falsely advertise them as drinkable.