With 149 new deaths in the past 24 hours, Iran's death toll from coronavirus (COVID-19) rose to 1,284 on Thursday. According to the latest official announcement by the Health Ministry, there are now 18,407 cases of confirmed coronavirus infection in the Islamic Republic.
The new numbers were announced by Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeesi. According to him a total of 5,979 have recovered from the illness since February 19 when the first two deaths from coronavirus were reported in Qom, a central Iranian city.
The number of infections has gone up by 1,046 since Wednesday. The number only includes cases confirmed as coronavirus infections according to the strict protocols of the Iranian Health Ministry that requires confirmation by coronavirus tests. Many, including Iranian medical authorities, have said that the number can be much higher if patients who have been admitted to hospitals and not been tested as well as the those who have self-isolated are included in the tally.
On Wednesday the President of Iran's licensing and regulatory body for healthcare professionals said the number of people infected by COVID-19 is "definitely much higher" than what the country's Ministry of Health announces. Dr. Zafarghandi also dismissed the claims that the peak of the epidemic is over.
According to Dr. Kianoush Jahanpour, the Spokesman of Iran's Health Ministry, one Iranian dies of COVID-19 every ten minutes.
By gathering data from dispersed official comments by provincial authorities and local news agencies Radio Farda has been able to confirm that at least 1,774 patients died of coronavirus in Iran and at least 34,225 have been admitted to hospitals in 30 provinces out of the 31 provinces of the country as of March 18.
Iranians will be celebrating the New Year (Nowrouz) on Friday. The holiday falls on the day of the Spring Equinox. With coronavirus epidemic affecting the country, the worst-hit in the Middle East and the third in the world after China and Italy, the government has urged people to stay in their home and avoid all travel to help curb the spread of the disease.