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Higher Mortality Rate In Iran This Year Raises Doubt Over Official COVID Numbers

People wearing protective gear attend the funeral of a victim who died from the new coronavirus, at a cemetery in the outskirts of the city of Ghaemshahr in north of Iran, May 1, 2020

While Iran’s official COVID-19 death toll stands at about 11,000, the country's Civil Registration Organization (CRO) says the total number of deaths in the spring of 2020 is about 19,000 more than in the same period last year.

Data provided by the CRO show that in the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (beginning March 20), a total of 110,384 people died of various causes across Iran.

That's 19,000 more than in the spring 2019 and about 20,000 more than a year earlier. This raises strong suspicions that the higher number of deaths this year is due to the coronavirus pandemic. The problem is that the government's official death toll from COVID in the same period was 9,000; much less than the higher death toll this year.

Iranian officials have not explained why there were 11,000 more deaths this year between March 20 and June 20 compared with the last two years.

Official coronavirus-related statistics in Iran are regarded with doubts over their accuracy and validity. Even some government organizations and local officials have contradicted the official COVID-19 numbers, and some have said the real toll could be several times more.

The Iranian health ministry abruptly, and without any explanation, stopped providing the geographical breakdown of coronavirus numbers in the early weeks of the pandemic. This has fueled distrust in the official numbers.

However, the increase in mortality has occurred in all 31 provinces of Iran, and its rate is higher in some regions where coronavirus has been more prevalent.

Among the provinces where the total death toll has risen sharply are Tehran, Gilan, Mazandaran and other provinces where the pandemic has been strong.

The Islamic Republic officials say the first case of coronavirus in Iran was identified on February 19, 2020. Still, many experts and even some government officials have said that the outbreak of the deadly virus was announced with much delay out of political considerations.

According to the official statistics of the Islamic Republic, 10,670 people have so far died of COVID-19, and the total number of people infected with coronavirus has reached 225,205.

In recent weeks, the government's order to lift restrictions and open public places has been met with a wave of protests.

However, following a sharp rise in daily death toll, Islamic Republic President Hassan Rouhani finally announced on June 28 that using face masks would be compulsory in public places from next week (July 4).