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Iran's Official Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 2,500, With 35,000 Infected

A COVID-19 patient in a Tehran hospital. March 28, 2020
A COVID-19 patient in a Tehran hospital. March 28, 2020

With 139 more deaths from coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in 24 hours, Iran's death toll has reached 2,517, a health Ministry spokesman said. The confirmed infection cases have also gone up to 35,408 with 3,076 more people contracting the disease in the same period.

This is the second consecutive day in Iran's coronavirus epidemic calendar with more than 3,000 new cases but the number of deaths in the same 48 hour period does not show a significant change in comparison with the previous days. The number of deaths that have been officially announced since the beginning of the outbreak on February 19 have grown quite steadily with no sudden growth or peak despite the significant higher number of confirmed infections in the past couple of peak.

According to Iran's official coronavirus statistics, the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the epidemic was registered on March 26 with 157 COVID-19 deaths.

The recent high infection figures may indicate an acceleration in the identification of new cases, possibly due to better availability of test kits and a government online screening initiative for identification of possible cases.

Movement restrictions in Tehran left highways virtuallu empty. March 28, 2020
Movement restrictions in Tehran left highways virtuallu empty. March 28, 2020

Imported or internationally donated test kits have now become more available to the Iranian health system but according to the health ministry Iran will also start using home-grown test kits soon. The ministry's spokesman Dr. Kianush Jahanpur said Iran's Pasteur Institute, a century-old government-funded medical research center in Tehran, has now approved Iranian-made coronavirus test kits and 80,000 kits per week could be available after approval of the Food and Medicine Agency.

Iran's Health Ministry officials say that an online coronavirus screening plan is now being implemented throughout the country which can push the number of identified cases up considerably. All Iranians have been asked to fill in the online questionnaire and check their symptoms on the government health portal.

Dr. Jahanpur on Thursday said more than 50 million Iranians have signed up on the portal but 30 million more still need to sign up and fill in the questionnaire.

The Health Ministry officials insist that their data is based on the final test of coronavirus on patients, and they exclude the number of persons who have had clinical symptoms of the Covid-19 but were not tested for the virus. Due to unavailability of enough test kits this could considerably keep the numbers low.

Critics, however, allege that the Iranian government for political and security reasons intentionally keeps the figures low, so many of the coronavirus infections and deaths are registered as "acute respiratory diseases".

Data gathered by Radio Farda from various national and local media in Iran, as well as comments made by regional authorities and Health Ministry officials, indicated 3,036 people have fallen victim to the novel coronavirus.

Our data shows that as of March 26 at least 59,120 patients had tested positive and been hospitalized for contracting the deadly virus in the country's 31 provinces since February 19. This is nearly double the official number of 32,000 announced by the government.

Radio Farda's estimate is also very conservative, and the real number of the victims could be much higher. The data show that most of the victims belong to the provinces of Isfahan, Gilan, Mazandaran, Golestan, Khorasan Razavi, Tehran and Qom. A World Health Organization official who recently visited Iran has said that the real figures can potentially be up to five times higher.

Iranian health authorities are still reluctant to publish the number of Covid-19 victims in the provinces of Tehran and Qom, possibly due to the high number of the victims in the two neighboring regions and their importance as political and religious centers of the country. They have also refused to publish the breakdown of the number of victims for each province so far.