TEHRAN – For some $15 a day, deliverymen don masks and gloves in Iran's capital to zip across its pandemic-subdued streets to drop off groceries and food for those sheltering at home from the virus.
Like the wider Mideast, from skyscraper-studded Dubai to the narrow alleyways of Cairo, Iranians in cities rely on delivery for many of their daily supplies amid one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks.
Those deliveries, coming as Muslims prepare for the holy fasting month of Ramadan, take on new importance for those receiving the goods and offer new risks for the couriers trying to make a living.
“I need a source of income and I take all the risks," 23-year-old deliveryman Yaghoub Moradi said.
Iran, the Middle Eastern country hardest hit by the pandemic, on Thursday put its death toll from the virus at 5,481 out of more than 87,000 confirmed cases. State TV said there were 1,030 new cases and the death toll was 90 more than Wednesday.
Iran already struggles under severe U.S. sanctions blocking the sale of its crude oil abroad, measures imposed after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. That has led to a monthslong period of increased tensions that have persisted through the pandemic.
Now, the virus is striking the service sector and other industries that escaped the wrath of sanctions, economic analyst Mehdiyar Mostafaei told The Associated Press. For a nation already struggling with unemployment, that's forced many into the gray market of gypsy cabs and on-demand delivery, using their own vehicles.
Shahin Daryani, a supermarket owner, told the AP that much of his sales come from phone orders. The demand has seen him hire four new couriers.