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Monday 10 August 2020

Iranian Newspaper Closed down after Expert Doubts Official Coronavirus Figures

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DUBAI (Reuters) — Iran shut down Jahan-e Sanat (جهان صنعت) newspaper on Monday after it quoted a former member of the national coronavirus taskforce as saying the country’s tolls from the epidemic could be 20 times higher than official figures, state news agency IRNA reported.

Sima Sadat Lari
Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari said on Monday that only 189 more Iranians have died from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours bringing the total deaths to 18,616. According to M-R Mahboubfar, this figure would represent only 5% of the deaths, the real number being around 370,000.

On Sunday, Jahan-e Sanat published an interview with Mohammad-Reza Mahboubfar, in which he said: “The figures announced by the officials on coronavirus cases and deaths account for only 5% of the country’s real tolls”.

Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari rejected Mahboubfar’s remarks and said he was not a member of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. It was however not clear if she meant he had never been a member of the body, as claimed by the newspaper.

Mahboubfar, an epidemiologist, told the newspaper that authorities had detected the coronavirus in January, while Iran announced its first infections and two deaths from the virus on February 19. “There was no transparent flow of information […] The government only provided engineered figures […] over concerns about (its impact) on the election and the commemorations of the revolution anniversary”, Mahboubfar told the daily.

Iran is one of the most affected countries by COVID-19 in the Middle East, with 18,616 deaths and 328,844 cases of infection. Some experts and regulators have questioned the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus figures. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre published last April suggested that the number of coronavirus cases could be almost twice as high as that announced by the Ministry of Health. The report stated that Iran’s official coronavirus statistics were based solely on the number of deaths in hospitals and on those who had already tested positive.

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