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25 million Iranians caught COVID-19, says Iranian President, Rouhani

Tehran has frequently been accused of vastly under-reporting the scope of the outbreak, which has killed at least 13,791 according to official figures

By TOI staff and Agencies, TOI, 18 July 2020

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that 25 million Iranians have been infected with the coronavirus, a figure far higher than the country’s nearly 270,000 confirmed cases announced a day earlier.

Rouhani said there were 30 to 35 million people still at risk of contracting the virus. It was unclear how these figures were calculated and no reason was given for the discrepancy between the number of people previously announced to have been infected. Iran’s population is around 80 million.

“A report from the research department of the health ministry has assessed that 25 million Iranians have been infected with the disease so far,” Rouhani said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Referring to the report, Rouhani said it also predicts that the number of hospitalizations will soon be “twice as many as we have seen in the last 150 days.” People wearing protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus walk through the Nasr Shopping Center in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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

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.

A parliamentary report in April said Iran’s death toll is 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. 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)

On Friday the Iranian Health Ministry said there were nearly 270,000 confirmed cases and at least 13,791 deaths. That included 2,379 new cases and 183 deaths in the previous 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.

Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, has been scrambling to contain the pandemic since it reported its first two COVID-19 deaths in February.

The virus causes mild to moderate flu-like symptoms in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it can cause severe illness or death, particularly in older patients or those with weakened immune systems. It is highly contagious and can be spread by people showing no symptoms.

Iran has been battling a resurgence of infections, with official figures showing a rise in both new infections and deaths since a two-month low in May. An Iranian street performer plays his accordeon as people shop at the Tajrish Bazaar market in the capital Tehran on July 14, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Tehran has refrained from imposing full lockdowns but closed schools and canceled public gatherings.

It banned travel between provinces in March but lifted the order the next month.

The rising toll has prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and allow worst-hit provinces to reimpose restrictions, with the capital Tehran among the latest closing some public spaces like coffee shops, zoos, and indoor swimming pools.

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