Iran’s virus death toll likely 80% higher than official number

A woman mourns during a funeral held at Beheshte Masoumeh Cemetery for a victim of coronavirus in Qom, Iran, on March 17, 2020. (Getty Images)
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Updated 15 April 2020

Iran’s virus death toll likely 80% higher than official number

  • Health Ministry death toll figures only account for those who died in hospitals
  • Counting of coronavirus victims who died in their homes disregarded

TEHRAN: The death toll in Iran from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is likely nearly double the officially reported figures, due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems has been tested for the virus, a parliament report said.

Iranian health officials offered no comment on the report, released on Tuesday, which represents the highest-level charge yet from within the country of its figures being questionable, something long suspected by international experts.

Iran on Wednesday put the death toll at 4,777, out of 76,389 confirmed cases of the virus — still making it the Middle East’s worst outbreak by far.

The report comes as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani continues to push for a slow reopening of the country’s economy, which remains targeted by crushing US sanctions. If its own figures offered to the World Health Organization are wrong, it adds to fears by some that encouraging people to return to work will spark a second wave of infections.

“In order to have more compatibility between protocol and estimated statistics, it is necessary to increase laboratory and testing capabilities in the country,” the report said.

“Needless to say that through increasing the capacities, diagnosis of disease will be more possible and the spread of the disease will be more limited.”

The 46-page report by Iran’s parliament research center, published online, carries the weight of being written by nonpartisan experts within the country.

The explosive charge was merely a footnote on page 6 in what appeared to be an otherwise routine report.

It said Health Ministry death toll figures counted only those who died in hospitals and had gotten positive test results for the virus. That disregarded all coronavirus victims who died in their homes. The report also said that aggressive testing, something experts have seized upon as necessary in the pandemic, has not been done in Iran — meaning other cases likely have been missed. It suggested the true death toll in Iran is probably 80 percent higher than figures now given, or nearly double.

As far as the positive cases are involved, and given the undertesting, the number of people infected is probably “eight to 10 times” higher than the reported figures, the report said.

If correct, the report’s worst-case figures would put Iran’s death toll potential as high over 8,500, with some 760,000 total cases. That would catapult Iran to the country with the highest number of infections in the world.

International experts long have suggested they suspected Iran’s numbers, as its mortality was higher than other nations. While other countries also have seen cases spike, Iran’s reported numbers so far have offered a gradual slope.

The report also accused authorities of not providing its authors with “detailed figures” over the disease. It also warned that more than 30,000 people could die if strict quarantine measures are not taken.

Deputy Health Minister Ali Reza Raisi on Wednesday acknowledged that the “limits of testing” faced by Iran mean it does not have accurate figures of all those infected.

“The real figures are more than the official statistics but it is not correct to multiply official figures by two or three,” he said, without elaborating or directly addressing the parliament report.


At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

Updated 38 min 1 sec ago

At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

  • Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes
  • The militants had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people after they returned to their homes

EL-ARISH: More than a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula over the past two weeks from explosive devices laid down in their homes by militants, security and medical officials said Sunday.
Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes. The military then secured the villages in August and allowed residents to return to their homes a few weeks later, the officials said.
The militants, however, had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people, including six from the same family late on Saturday, officials said. The causalities included women and children.
At least ten others have been wounded since Oct. 12 and were taken to the town’s hospital for treatment, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Bir Al-Abd was the site of a horrific extremist attack on a mosque in 2017 that killed over 300 worshippers, some of them fathers praying with their young sons. The tribes of North Sinai have been heavily targeted by militants who view their veneration of Muslim saints and shrines as heretical, forcing a mass exodus of residents from the impoverished area that has long been underdeveloped by the government.
Violence and instability there intensified after the military overthrew the country’s president in 2013 amid nationwide protests against the Muslim Brotherhood group’s divisive rule. Extremist militants have since carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.
The conflict has largely taken place out of public view, with journalists and outside observers barred from the area. The conflict has so far not expanded into the southern end of the peninsula where popular Red Sea tourist resorts are located.
In February 2018, the military launched a massive operation in Sinai that also encompassed parts of the Nile Delta and deserts along the country’s western border with Libya. Since then, the pace of Daesh attacks in Sinai’s north has diminished.