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Exclusive Report Shows Higher Coronavirus Infection, Death Rates In Iran

Emergency medical staff wearing protective suits, sit in an ambulance while transferring a patient with coronavirus (COVID-19) to Masih Daneshvari Hospital, in Tehran, March 30, 2020

An exclusive report by Radio Farda puts the number of those who have been hospitalized with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms in Iran at over 70,000 people.

The report which sums up the figures released by local officials and the Health Ministry in Tehran as well as media reports says 70,108 patients with clinical symptoms of COVID-19 have been hospitalized in Iran's 31 provinces, while as many as 4,762 people have died as of March 31.

Iranian officials give away daily death toll and figures about the spread of the infection but during the past two weeks, they did not announce the death toll in the Provinces of Tehran and Qom where the outbreak has claimed more lives.

According to the exclusive report by Radio Farda, 1,067 people have died in Tehran as a result of the infection, as well as 600 others in Khorasan Razavi Province, 423 in Mazandaran, 400 in Gilan, and 396 in Isfahan as some of the worst hit areas.

The official figures released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday March 31 put the number of COVID-19 patients in Iran at 44,606 and the total number of deaths at 2,898.

The Health Ministry report says for the fourth consecutive day, more than 3,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

However, several members of the Iranian Parliament have said the figures released by the Health Ministry are far less than the actual numbers.

Presidential adviser Hesamoddin Ashna revealed on his Twitter that President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Health Ministry to give away the number of infections based on the number of all those hospitalized with COVID-19 clinical symptoms, but the Ministry has still not changed the way it disseminates information about the outbreak.

The Ministry's figures are based on the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 after three tests at various intervals.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Health Ministry announces the number of people who have been "cured" of the disease every day. The figure now stands at 14,656. However, it is not clear whether this number of people are currently in quarantine centers or they are possibly sent home after they no longer showed the symptoms of the disease.

In another development, Dr. Mostafa Moein, the chairman of the Iranian Medical Council called on President Hassan Rouhani in a letter on Monday to declare the precise number of infections and deaths in various cities and provinces "in a transparent and honest way."

A World Health Organization expert had said earlier that the real figures about COVID-19 patients in Iran could be up to five times higher than what the Iranian government announces.

Based on conflicting instructions by the government, Iranians should continue to observe social distancing rules until April 3. Other reports say social distancing ends by April 19. Rouhani himself has mentioned at least two different dates for the people to return to work. This comes while many people and officials in Iran have said most people have so far ignored the social distancing order.

Recently Rouhani administration's Spokesman Ali Rabiei, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said that less than half of the population have been abiding by social distancing.

Alireza Zali, the official in charge of the COVID-19 Control Task Force in Tehran says based on a poll conducted by the task force, 51 percent of the people in Tehran believe they will not contract the virus and 40 percent of the people do not believe staying home will curb the outbreak.

Another poll conducted in Tehran says only a small number of the city's population approve of the Rouhani administration's performance since the start of the outbreak in January, media reports say.

Meanwhile, in one of the latest developments, the COVID-19 Control Task Force announced on Monday that Iranian newspapers are not allowed to publish hard copies until the end of social distancing restrictions, although they may continue publishing their online versions.

The government's argument is that the process of printing and distribution involves a lot of contacts between people. However, critics say the government's plan is to silence possible criticism by newspapers.

Iranian journalist Abbas Abdi says the closure of newspapers will adversely affect journalists livelihood and will lead to proliferation of fake news as people do not trust the news disseminated by the state-controlled television.

The Culture Ministry explained on Tuesday that the ban on the publication of hard copy newspapers should continue at least until April 8.