Data leak exposes Iran’s massive cover-up of coronavirus deaths

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Funeral prayer is performed at Beheshte Masoumeh Cemetery for the victims of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Qom, Iran, in this March 17, 2020 file picture. — Courtesy photo
Funeral prayer is performed at Beheshte Masoumeh Cemetery for the victims of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Qom, Iran, in this March 17, 2020 file picture. — Courtesy photo

JEDDAH — The number of coronavirus deaths in Iran is nearly triple what Iran's government claims, a BBC investigation has revealed.



According to BBC’s Persian service, Iranian authorities have reported significantly lower daily death numbers despite having a record of all coronavirus-related fatalities.

The government records appear to show almost 42,000 people died with coronavirus symptoms up to July 21, against 14,405 reported by Iran’s health ministry, according to the BBC report.

The number of people known to be infected is also almost double official figures: 451,024 as opposed to 278,827.

Despite the massive cover-up, the official numbers still make Iran the worst-hit in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, it has suffered a second steep rise in the number of cases.

The first death in Iran from coronavirus was recorded on Jan. 22, according to lists and medical records that BBC claims to have received from an anonymous source.

The data includes details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in the hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The discrepancy between the official figures and the number of deaths on these records also matches the difference between the official figure and calculations of excess mortality until mid-June.

Excess mortality refers to the number of deaths above and beyond what would be expected under "normal" conditions.

Tehran, the capital, has the highest number of deaths with 8,120 people who died with coronavirus or symptoms similar to it.

The city of Qom, the initial epicenter of the virus in Iran, is worst hit proportionally, with 1,419 deaths — that is one death with coronavirus for every 1,000 people.

It is notable that, across the country, 1,916 deaths were non-Iranian nationals. This indicates a disproportionate number of deaths amongst migrants and refugees, who are mostly from neighboring Afghanistan.

The overall trend of cases and deaths in the leaked data is similar to official reports, albeit different in size.

The initial rise of deaths is far steeper than Health Ministry figures and by mid-March it was five times the official figure. — SG

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