They feared contracting the novel coronavirus; they died from a supposed remedy instead. Local news agencies in Iran say at least 27 people died of alcohol poisoning in the Khuzestan and Alborz provinces after swallowing booze they thought would fend off COVID-19, reports ABC News. Bloomberg notes that similar deaths were reported in the province of Tehran. The fatalities came about after rumors on social media circulated that the coronavirus outbreak could be kept at bay by drinking alcohol. But alcohol is banned in Iran, save for certain non-Muslim religious minorities, per the Sun, so people resorted to consuming industrial-strength ethanol and methanol, used for sanitation, instead.
"Some of the citizens ... used it as a preventive measure," a spokesman for a medical school in Khuzestan told the Mehr News Agency, via ABC. More than 200 people in total have been hospitalized after drinking the harmful alcohol, with several people in critical condition and one patient going blind, the spokesman says. Iran has been the nation in the Middle East most affected by the coronavirus, which has infected more than 7,000 people there as of Monday, killing at least 237, per a health ministry rep. Bloomberg notes that the country's health care system has been hindered by a faltering economy and US sanctions. (Read more coronavirus stories.)