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Iran Official Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps To Nearly 1,000, With 16,000 Infected

A firefighter disinfects the shrine of Saint Saleh to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, Friday, March 6, 2020.

With 125 more fatalities over the past 24 hours Iran's death toll from coronavirus (COVID-19) reached 988 on Tuesday. The figure only shows deaths from coronavirus confirmed by testing but observers believe the death toll is much higher, even as much as five-fold.

According to Dr. Kianush Jahanpour, Spokesman of Iran's Health Ministry, with 1,178 more cases identified in the past 24 hours, there were 16,169 cases of coronavirus infection as of Tuesday. Dr. Jahanpour said 5,389 coronavirus patients have recovered since two deaths were reported in Qom, the ground zero of the epidemic in Iran, on February 19.

By gathering reports by provincial officials and national and local news agencies Radio Farda was able to confirm that at least 1,500 had died of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran as of March 16 and at least 32,000 admitted to hospitals in 30 provinces out of the 31 provinces of the country.

On Monday Dr. Rick Brennan, Director of Emergency Operations in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new Emergencies Program, also said that Iran underreports its coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll but attributed it to testing being restricted to sever cases.

While saying that Iran's medical authorities were highly committed to combating the epidemic, Brennan said the weakest link in Iran's chain of coronavirus management is the data. He predicted that with Iranian health system rapidly increasing its ability to test, the numbers will go up. The toll can be potentially five times higher, he said.

Some Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and IRGC Commander Hossein Salami have said that the outbreak could have been part of a "biological terror attack" against Iran and China without explaining outbreaks in over 130 other countries, including the United States.

Iranian health professionals such as Deputy Health Minister Reza Malekzadeh have overruled such suspicions and allegations and warned that up to 70 percent of Iranian are likely to be affected by the virus due to the delay and failure in disease prevention and control.