JEDDAH: Iran is covering up the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic, a member of the country’s own anti-virus task force admitted on Tuesday.
Authorities in Tehran say the number of virus infections is just over 62,000, with a death toll of 3,872. In fact, the true number of cases is “around 500,000,” said Hamid Souri of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce.
The regional spread of the pandemic began in Iran, mostly by pilgrims returning from shrine cities such as Qom after the regime was slow to impose restrictions on movement. Doctors and several members of the Iranian parliament have said before that the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths are much higher than official figures suggest.
The regime claimed on Tuesday that about 70 million Iranians from a population of 83 million had now been screened for the virus. It is impossible to verify that figure, but experts say it is unlikely.
Worldwide, the number of people infected by the virus was approaching 1.4 million, and nearly 80,000 have died.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been suffering virus symptoms for nearly two weeks, remained in intensive care after being taken to hospital on Sunday night when his condition worsened.
“He remained stable overnight. He’s receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any assistance. He has not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support,” said Dominic Raab, the foreign minister, who is standing in for Johnson.
“I’m confident that he’ll pull through because, if there’s one thing I know about this prime minister, he’s a fighter,” Raab said.
In the US, the country worst hit by the pandemic, the death toll in New York state rose by 731 to 5,489. Nevertheless, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the number of people being treated in hospital was reaching a plateau, and he was working with governors in New Jersey and Connecticut on a plan to restart life once the crisis subsides.
Cuomo said the closures of businesses and schools and other social distancing measures were having the intended impact and urged continued compliance. “Our behavior affects the number of cases,” he said. “They are not descending on us from heaven.”
There were also glimmers of hope elsewhere that the virus was reaching its peak.
Spain said the downward trend in new infections and deaths was continuing, and increases in fatalities on Monday and Tuesday were the result of weekend deaths being added together; and for the first time there were no new deaths reported in China.