Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

Iran has been grappling with the Middle East's worst Covid-19 outbreak since January 2020. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 03 August 2020

Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

  • Iranian outbreak, already the worst in the Middle East, is far more serious than initially reported.
  • Tehran’s cover up of the true virus toll is consistent with their reaction to previous embarrassing incidents.

LONDON: A data leak from within Iran has revealed that the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is nearly three times higher than the figures reported by the government.

The data, which was passed to the BBC Persian service, shows almost 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, nearly triple the 14,405 reported by its health ministry.

The number of infections is also far higher than that admitted by the government: 451,024 as opposed to the 278,827 disclosed by Tehran.

Undercounting cases is common across the world due to limited testing capacity, but the BBC’s information reveals that Iranian authorities reported significantly lower daily numbers, despite having a record of all deaths — suggesting the figures were deliberately suppressed.

 

 

The data leak also shows that the first recorded case of the virus in Iran was on Jan. 22 — a month before the government acknowledged any cases.

Already the center of the Middle East’s virus outbreak, Tehran’s cover-up of early cases and its failure to swiftly act on the outbreak likely accelerated the spread of the virus across the region.

The BBC received the data from an anonymous source, who told them they shared the data to “shed light on the truth” and to end “political games” over the epidemic.

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

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

Dr Nouroldin Pirmoazzen, a former Iranian MP who was an official at the health ministry and is now living in the US, told the BBC that the government was “anxious and fearful of the truth” when COVID-19 hit Iran.

He said: “The government was afraid that the poor and the unemployed would take to the streets.”

The Iranian health ministry maintains that the country’s reports to the World Health Organization on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are “transparent” and “far from any deviations.”

The cover-up of the true scale of their COVID-19 crisis is not unusual behaviour from the regime. A number of incidents have brought a similar response in 2020 alone.

In January, Iran shot down a Ukrainian jet near Tehran, killing all passengers on board. The regime hid its actions for three days, only acknowledging wrongdoing as public pressure mounted through protests.

Then Iranian nuclear and military facilities were the target of a series of sabotages, explosions, and cyberattacks, but Tehran has attempted to conceal what happened at virtually every step of the way.


‘Make yourself invaluable’: Carlos Ghosn offers executive training in troubled Lebanon

Updated 9 min 50 sec ago

‘Make yourself invaluable’: Carlos Ghosn offers executive training in troubled Lebanon

  • The Lebanese-French executive has unveiled a plan to shake up the business school at the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik
  • Ghosn plans programs to coach top executives, offer technology training and help start-ups that will create jobs

BEIRUT: Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan and Renault head who fled Japan where he was facing trial, is launching a university management and business program in Lebanon, a nation mired in a deep crisis blamed on years of misrule, mismanagement and corruption.
Nine months after his dramatic escape to Beirut from Tokyo, the Lebanese-French executive has unveiled a plan to shake up the business school at the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (USEK), a private university north of the Lebanese capital.
Ghosn, credited with turning round the Japanese and French carmakers before he faced charges of financial wrongdoing that he denies, plans programs to coach top executives, offer technology training and help start-ups that will create jobs.
Ghosn, a fugitive from a Japanese justice system he says was rigged against him, has found refuge in his childhood home Lebanon where the economy is collapsing under debts amassed since the 1975-1990 civil war. A devastating blast in Beirut on Aug. 4 compounded Lebanon’s woes.
“Obviously I am not interested in politics but I will dedicate time and effort into supporting Lebanon during this difficult period,” he told Reuters at the weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s formal launch during a press conference of his new university program.
“This is about creating jobs, employment and entrepreneurs to allow society to take its role into the reconstruction of the country,” Ghosn told a press conference at USEK on Tuesday.
Ghosn, who was approached by USEK in the weeks after arriving in Lebanon at the end of December, said the programs aimed to offer practical help. He will help supervise.
Drawing on his experience, the focus for the executive program would be turning around companies in trouble, corporations struggling with a troubled environment and how to “make yourself invaluable” in a company.
Ghosn said several international executives had agreed to give pro bono courses, such as Jaguar and Land Rover Chief Executive Thierry Bolloré, former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman Ken Curtis and venture capitalist Raymond Debbane.
The short courses, expected to start in March, would be open to 15 to 20 senior executives in Lebanon and the Middle East.
‘ROLE MODEL’
“The role model is my experience, what I think are the basic needs of a top executive in a very competitive environment,” he said, adding that, when he was in charge, Nissan’s executive training program in Japan had been open to other companies.
The second USEK program, subsidised by the executive program, would train people on new technologies, such as computer-assisted design and artificial intelligence.
Ghosn said Lebanon’s jewelry exporters were among those who would benefit from the use of software to help with designs.
The third program would act as an incubator for start-ups, and he aimed to invest in two projects. “I am mainly interested in projects that have environmental impact,” he said, citing the example of a project to turn sewage into fertilizer.
“You are creating entrepreneurs which are badly needed, you are creating employment,” he said, adding he had been persuaded to work with USEK by the president of the Maronite Christian institution, Father Talal Hachem, and his young team.
Ghosn said he had also chosen to work with USEK, rather than some of the bigger Lebanese universities, because he liked the idea of working with an institution that drew in a broad range of students, not just the wealthy.
“These students need help more than anybody else. This is the class that has been smashed by the situation today,” he told Reuters.
“I’m going to help in the way I can,” he said. “I’m going to help build the economy by helping to solve problems that every Lebanese is facing today.”