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'You Can't Hide Graveyards' Says Iran Lawmaker, Dismissing Official Coronavirus Death Toll

Iranian women wearing protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, February 20, 2020
Iranian women wearing protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, February 20, 2020

A lawmaker who represents the people of Rasht in northern Iran in the parliament says the real COVID-19 death toll in Iran is far higher than official figures.

Iran's Health Ministry on Friday rose the coronavirus death toll to 34 but BBC's Persian Service says according to information it has received from sources in Iranian hospitals, the tally of the death toll in various Iranian cities until Thursday is at least 210.

Gholam Ali Jafazadeh Imanabadi, MP for Rasht has urged state officials to present the real figures. "You may conceal the numbers, but you cannot hide graveyards," he said.

Some unverified footage on Iranian social media show people burying the dead in something like a mass grave in where is said to be the city of Langaroud in northern Iran.

Others in the same area have expressed concern over the short distance between Coronavirus victims' graves and residential homes.

Reporting what he has seen during visits to graveyards in Tehran and Rasht, Imanabadi charged that "the officials conceal the statistics from the people," adding that what has been officially declared is not accurate.

Previously one of the representatives of Qom who has tested positive for the virus, said that at least 50 people have died in in his city as a result of exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Two renowned local musicians Mohammad and Majid Jamshidi are among the victims in Lahijan near Rasht.

Imanabadi added that at least 10 people die in Rasht as a result of the contagion on a daily basis, but government officials keep the death toll secret.

Meanwhile, a Tehran City Council member said in an interview on Friday February 28 that he believes up to 15,000 Iranians may have the virus.

Nahid Khodakarami, the head of the Tehran City Council's health committee says "some 10,000 to 15,000 Iranians may have already contracted the virus." She says "although these figures might look pessimistic, some people may have the virus in their body without knowing about it yet."

In another development, ILNA news website in Iran has reported that the medical school in Gilan Province which oversees hospitals in the province has called on retired nurses to report to medical centers and hospitals for help.

Some people in Rasht and other cities in the Gilan Province say that some Tehran residents who chose not to go to work as a preventive measure, ended their self-isolation and went to the northern provinces for holiday and this has led to an increase in the number of patients and death in northern provinces.

However, Health Ministry officials contend that the rise in the number of Coronavirus patients is due to an increase in the number of laboratories that have been equipped with new diagnostic kits.

Official figures presented by Health Ministry Spokesman Kianush Jahanpur on Friday put the number of victims at 34 and the number of Coronavirus patients at 388.

In the meantime, government officials including President Hassan Rouhani have opposed the idea of imposing a quarantine on Qom, the city from where Coronavirus spread to the rest of the country in the first place.

Imanabadi has criticized the government's opposition to quarantine and its portral of preventative and disease control measures as a conspiracy by "enemies".

He said it is essential to quarantine some cities in order to control the virus. Imanabadi added that it is the Supreme Council of National Security headed by Rouhani that has opposed the idea of introducing quarantine.

Health Ministry Spokesman Kianush Jahanpur has clearly stated that the spread of the virus started when people from other cities came in contact with patients in Qom.

The Rouhani administration's spokesman Ali Rabiei has said that controlling Coronavirus depends on the people's trust in the government. Observers maintain that the people's distrust of the government has created a panic about Coronavirus in Iran.