Data gathered by Radio Farda from various national and local media in Iran quoting local authorities and Health Ministry officials indicate that the coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll in the country is at least 660 more than the officially announced tally on March 21.
On Saturday in his daily announcement Dr. Kianoush Jahanpour, Spokesman of Iran's Health Ministry, said with 966 more patients diagnosed with coronavirus in the 24 hours prior to his report the number of infections has reached 20,610. He also said with 123 more deaths in the same period, the death toll from COVID-19 is up to 1,556 now.
Radio Farda's tally, which takes patients with clinical manifestations of the disease into account, stands at 46,972, more than double the official number. Iran's Health Ministry counts only those who have tested positive for the disease but its ability to test is limited. Many deaths are registered as respiratory complications or influenza because there are not enough test kits for everyone with symptoms.
Iranian officials have so far declined to announce the death toll in Tehran and Qom Provinces which are the two hardest-hit among the 31 provinces. The Health Ministry, the only body authorized to announce the numbers, does not reveal the number of deaths for each province.
Even the number of confirmed infected patients in Tehran Province has not been disclosed. Radio Farda has acquired evidence of an exchange of information between the Head of the Coronavirus Combat Taskforce in Tehran Province, Alireza Zali, and First Vice-President Es'haq Jahangiri which may reflect the situation.
Based on this evidence, 70 percent of the 23,000 patients (16,000) with "respiratory illnesses" who have been admitted to hospitals in Tehran since the outbreak, have been diagnosed with coronavirus. This is in Tehran alone, while the government's official figure for the whole country is 20,610.
The Ministry says their numbers are based on "final testing" for coronavirus and do not include those with clinical symptoms only. Several lawmakers have questioned the figures announced by the Health Ministry on the basis of first-hand information they have from the authorities and personal accounts in their constituencies.
The number of patients and the death toll are probably even higher than the numbers Radio Farda has summed up from the said sources, which indicate that the highest deaths have occurred in the provinces of Esfahan, Khorasan-e Razavi, Tehran, Qom, Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan.
Meanwhile, an official in charge of distribution of medicine for the treatment of coronavirus patients on Saturday said that constituent parts of a drug to fight coronavirus have been imported from China.
The medication can be manufactured within two days when the ingredients are released from the customs and available, Ali Razazan said. He did not reveal the name of the Chinese drug but said it is an anti-viral drug tested in China that can help in treating patients suffering from COVID-19.
China has not reported the use of the drug but Japanese media say a Japanese influenza medication may be helpful to patients suffering from coronavirus disease.
Currently according to the Head of the Scientific Committee of the Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, Iran is testing a cocktail of three drugs for the treatment of respiratory complications in coronavirus patients.
Dr. Mostafa Qanei on March 17 told the press that the cocktail reduces the duration of hospitalization of patients from up to 15 days to only four days. He added that with improvement of their symptoms, 40 percent of those treated with the medication were released from hospital in less than four days. According to Dr. Qanei the cocktail consists of Azithromycin, Naplo Protexin and Prednisolone.