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More Coronavirus Patients Than Officially Announced, Iran Medical Official Says

Iranians take pictures of firefighters as they disinfect streets in an effort to stop the wild spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Tehran. March 13, 2020.

On Wednesday the President of Iran Medical Council said that the number of people infected by coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran is "definitely" much higher than what the country's Ministry of Health announces.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi who heads the licensing and regulatory body for Iranian healthcare professionals also dismissed the authorities' claim that coronavirus infection has reached its peak in the country. The Council is a non-governmental organization and its head is elected by the country's healthcare professionals.

"Our colleagues' epidemiological studies indicate that the coronavirus infection rate is still on the rise," he noted and added: "If we manage to increase the period of isolation and staying at home by 15% to 20%, we will pass the peak point sooner, and that could happen in late March. Failing to do so and carrying on our current manner, we might reach the peak point in May or even later".

On Monday several official news agencies, including the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), reported that according to governmental authorities Iran had already put the peak point of the epidemic behind. Hours later, the claim was refuted by some officials.

On Wednesday, however, President Hassan Rouhani once again insisted that the two provinces of Qom, the epicenter of the deadly virus outbreak, and Gilan which turned into a second hotspot, are already past the peak point of the infection.

Dr. Zafarghandi noted: "The data provided by the Ministry of Health is formulated on the basis of the World Health Organization's (WHO) protocols, that is, on the number of patients tested positive. According to Dr. Zafarghandi many patients who are admitted to hospitals on the basis of their CT Scan results and those who stay at home and have not been tested are not included in the official statistics.

By gathering data from dispersed official comments by provincial authorities and local news agencies Radio Farda has been able to confirm that at least 1,500 have died of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran as of March 17. According to the latest official announcement of the Health Ministry on Wednesday the death toll stood at 1135.