Deaths in Iran from COVID-19 are three times what the government claims

The Persian country is the most affected by the pandemic in the Middle East, with over 42,000 people killed, according to the BBC
Iran has been hit by the coronavirus

AFP/ATTA KENARE  -   Iran has been hit by the coronavirus

Suspicions that Iran has not been reporting the full extent of the pandemic in the actual number of deaths and infections are growing. Especially after the BBC in Persian published a document leaked by an anonymous source, stating the actual number of deaths, over 42,000 as of 20 July, compared to 14,405 reported by the Ministry of Health so far.

The document also shows how the number of people infected during these same dates is almost double the official figures, in fact 451,024 cases compared to 278,827 reported by Tehran.

This dance and opacity in the figures goes back to the beginning of the pandemic in the Persian country, when the first death from SARS-V2 occurred on January 22, a month before official agencies admitted the death. Iranian President Hassan Rohani himself contributed to this confusion in the actual figures when he admitted that "25 million Iranians could be infected", when the actual figures were 272,000.

According to this leak, which collects detailed data on those affected: name, age, sex, symptoms, date and time in hospital, the capital of Tehran would be the city with the most deaths, exceeding 8,000, followed by Qom, the main focus during the first weeks of the pandemic. It is in this province that the number of hospitalised people is increasing, and the Government fears a spike in the pandemic, so it has called on the population to respect social distancing, wash their hands and wear masks, a measure that has become compulsory in closed places.

Second Wave

In recent weeks, the country has experienced a second wave of contagion, with the Ministry of Health reporting more than 200 deaths over the past weekend and 2,000 new infections per day. The relaxation of the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus, as shown by the images on state television, where many Iranians can be seen on the streets of the capital without respecting the social distance, has meant that in recent weeks the country has suffered a considerable increase in cases. Iran has the fifth highest number of deaths in the world and the second highest number of cases of infection.

According to the British network, the Ministry of Health has been under pressure from the Iranian intelligence services to adjust the figures: "Those who brought the country to this point are not paying the price. It is the poor people of the country and my poor patients who pay the price with their lives," one doctor told the British network.

El presidente de Irán, Hasán Rohaní
PHOTO/REUTERS - Iranian President Hassan Rohani

The large number of infections was caused by the risks taken by Iranian officials, religious leaders and businessmen who continued to travel to China early on despite the fact that the virus was spreading very rapidly in the Asian country. The documents also reveal a large number of deaths among migrants and refugees, 1,916 victims, most of them from Afghanistan.

To defend itself against accusations of opacity and cover-up, the Ministry of Health has said that its official report to the World Health Organization on deaths and infections from COVID-19 was "transparent" and without any omissions. But the leaked information shows that the Iranian authorities have given much lower daily figures despite having the actual record of all deaths.

The beginning of the outbreak coincided with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, parliamentary elections and a crisis in popular support for the Iranian regime. In November 2019, rising gasoline prices caused thousands of Iranians to protest and hundreds of protesters to be killed. This was compounded by the crisis following the assassination of Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, and the downing of the Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people. As it did with the Ukrainian plane, the Iranian Government has tried to cover up the real figures of the pandemic.