Iran covered up true virus death toll of 42,000 – report

Iran covered up true virus death toll of 42,000 – report

Data seen by BBC shows actual number is nearly triple the reported tally; 52 people died in month before Islamic Republic admitted to outbreak

In this March 1, 2020, file photo, a medic treats a patient infected with coronavirus at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. (Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP, File)
In this March 1, 2020, file photo, a medic treats a patient infected with coronavirus at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. (Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP, File)

The number of deaths in Iran caused by the coronavirus is nearly triple the official tally, according to a report on Monday by the BBC Persian service.

The investigation saw data that appeared to show the country suffered almost 42,000 deaths of people showing symptoms of COVID-19 up to July 20 — a vast increase on the official tally of 14,405.

The number of people confirmed to have been infected was said to be 451,024, well above the official government number of 278,827 as of July 20.

Additionally, the broadcaster said it had seen medical records showing that the Islamic Republic’s first fatality from the coronavirus was on January 22 — almost a month before the official announcement of the deaths of two people in the Shiite holy city of Qom.

In the 28 days until the first official acknowledgement that the virus was in Iran on February 19, a total of 52 people had already died, the BBC reported.

An Iranian woman gets her temperature checked as she arrives for prayer on Arafat day at the Tehran University Campus mosque, on July 30, 2020 (STR / AFP)

The Persian-language service of the British outlet said it received the data from an anonymous source. The information included details of daily hospital admissions, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and time spent in hospital, as well as any underlying conditions the patients had.

The report said that although many countries are believed to have lower death tolls due to under-reporting and depressed testing rates, in Iran the records were complete but the numbers were suppressed and not made public.

According to the report, Tehran saw the highest number of deaths with 8,120 people dying of COVID-19 or with similar symptoms. Qom, which was believed to be the initial epicenter of Iran’s outbreak saw 1,419 deaths, but had the highest per capita fatality rate, with one coronavirus death for every 1,000 residents.

A nurse cares for patients in a ward dedicated for people infected with the coronavirus, at Forqani Hospital in Qom, Iran, Feb. 26, 2020 (Mohammad Mohsenzadeh/Mizan News Agency via AP )

The data also showed that 1,916 non-Iranian nationals have died in the pandemic, with the report saying many were presumably refugees from neighboring Afghanistan.

The cover-up has been blamed on the Iranian regime initially wanting to maintain popular support.

Before Iran reported its first cases of the virus in February, authorities denied it had reached the country for days, allowing the virus time to spread as the nation marked the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution with mass demonstrations and then held a parliamentary election in which authorities desperately sought to boost turnout.

Many, including Mossad head Yossi Cohen, have already accused the Islamic Republic of under-reporting the scope of its coronavirus outbreak.

A parliamentary report in April said Iran’s death toll was at the time likely nearly double the officially reported figures. Given insufficient testing, the report said the number of people infected at the time was probably “eight to 10 times” higher than the reported figures.

Even today, Iranian death tolls remain based on those who died in coronavirus wards in hospitals. However, it’s believed that many more died at home, and some families have reportedly asked doctors not to mention their loved ones died of the virus to avoid the stigma associated with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wears a protective face mask to help prevent spread of the coronavirus as he gives a press briefing in Tehran, Iran, July 21, 2020. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Last month Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that 25 million Iranians may have been infected with the coronavirus, a figure drastically higher than the country’s official tally. Iran’s population is around 80 million.

The shock statement was compounded by Rouhani’s suggestion his government was now hoping to overcome the Middle East’s worst outbreak via herd immunity.

The number is far higher than the 18 million cases recorded worldwide and significantly more than some hard-hit countries such as the United States and Brazil.

It was also nearly 100 times worse than Iran’s official infection figure of over 270,000 cases issued at the time by the health ministry.

Iran reported on Sunday its highest single-day infection count in nearly a month, warning that most of its provinces have been hit by a resurgence of the disease.

The latest surge brings the total cases officially identified since late February to 309,437.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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