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Iran Health Official Says Coronavirus Present In Iran Since Late-January

Coronavirus in a Tehran hospital. March 28, 2020

The Head of the Epidemiology Committee of Iran's Coronavirus Combat Taskforce on Saturday said coronavirus (SARS-2-CoV) was spreading in Iran without being noticed since around January 20.

In a video conference with reporters, Dr. Ali-Akbar Haqdoust said there was a delay in detection of the virus in Iran. Iranian Health Ministry officials have until now insisted that the virus arrived in the country about two weeks later, in February.

On March 13 Dr. Reza Malekzadeh, Deputy Health Minister had also pointed out that there had been a "delay" in the detection of coronavirus leading to incorrect diagnoses of the early cases as forms of flu.

Dr. Haqdoust also said the virus had been "moving around" several cities and the earliest cases were either "without symptom" or not shown coronavirus-specific symptoms.

According to Dr. Haqdoust the epidemic currently does not seem to have reached its peak in Tehran. Iran expects to bring the epidemic under control in late April and put the first epidemic stage of the virus before the end of the summer, he said.

Dr. Haqdoust added that schools and universities can only be opened again when "at least two 10-day cycles of reduction in the number of new cases is reported".

With 139 more deaths from coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in 24 hours, Iran's death toll has reached 2,517, the 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.

According to Iran's official coronavirus statistics, the highest number of deaths since the two first deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Qom on February 19 was registered on March 26 with 157 deaths.

Critics say the virus could not have spread across the country as fast if the government had taken measures to quarantine Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Stricter measures for traveling from highly contaminated areas have now been introduced but urban public transport is still in use despite calls to halt them. Officials have been making contradictory statements regarding the scope of restrictions and how they will be enforced.

last update: 11 March
Deaths: 33