Coronavirus: Iran has revealed a cover-up of deaths due to data leaks

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Ambulance personnel transport the patient to a hospital in Tehran

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Iran was the worst affected country in the Middle East

An investigation by the BBC Persian service found that the number of deaths from coronavirus in Iran is three times what the Iranian government claims.

Private government records seem to show that nearly 42,000 people died of Covid-19 symptoms as of July 20, compared to 14,405 reported by the Ministry of Health.

The number of people known to be infected is also twice the official numbers: 451,024 versus 278,827.

Iran was one of the most affected countries outside China.

In recent weeks, she has experienced a second sharp rise in the number of cases.

The first death in Iran from Covid-19 was recorded on January 22, according to medical listings and records transferred to the BBC. This was almost a month before the first official case of the Corona virus was reported there.

Daily number of deaths from Covid-19 in Iran

Official figures vs. undiscovered data, from January 22 to July 20, 2020

Since the virus spread in Iran, many observers have questioned official figures.

There were data irregularities between the national and regional levels, which were reported by some local authorities, and statisticians tried to provide alternative estimates.

A level of deficiency, largely due to the ability to test, is seen around the world, but information leaked to the BBC reveals that Iranian authorities have reported significantly fewer daily numbers despite a record of all deaths – indicating that they are Deliberately suppressed.

Where did the data come from?

The data was sent to the BBC by an anonymous source.

Includes details of daily hospital admission across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and duration of hospitalizations, and basic conditions that patients may experience.

The details in the listings correspond to those of some of the living and deceased patients already known to the BBC.

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The source says they shared these statements with the BBC to "shed light on the truth" and end "political games" about the epidemic.

The discrepancy between the official numbers and the number of deaths in these records also matches the difference between the official number and excess death accounts until mid-June.

Excess mortality refers to the number of deaths that exceed what is expected in “normal” conditions.

What does the data reveal?

Tehran, the capital, has the highest number of deaths with 8,120 people who died with Covid-19 or similar symptoms.

Qom, the first center of the virus in Iran, is the most affected proportionately, with 1,419 deaths – that is, one Covid-19 deaths per 1,000 people.

It should be noted that throughout the country, there were 1,916 non-Iranian deaths. This indicates a disproportionate number of deaths among migrants and refugees, most of them from neighboring Afghanistan.

The general trend of cases and deaths in the leaked data is similar to official reports, albeit different in size.

The initial rise in deaths is steeper than the Ministry of Health figures, and by mid-March the official number was five times.

Closures were imposed during Nowruz (Iranian New Year) holiday at the end of the third week in March, and there was a corresponding decrease in cases and deaths.

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Iran has taken measures to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus

But as government restrictions eased, cases and deaths began to rise again after late May.

Crucially, the first recorded deaths in the leaked list occurred on January 22, a month before the first official infection with the Corona virus was reported in Iran.

At the time, Ministry of Health officials were determined to admit that there is not a single case of coronaviruses in the country, despite reports from journalists inside Iran, and warnings from various medical professionals.

In 28 days until the first official confession on February 19, 52 people have already died.

Who are the first informants?

Doctors with direct knowledge of this matter told the BBC that the Iranian Ministry of Health had come under pressure from the security and intelligence services inside Iran.

Dr. Bulady (not his real name) told the BBC that the ministry was "in denial."

"Initially they did not have test kits and when they got them, they were not used widely enough. The position of the security services was not to recognize the presence of the Coron virus in Iran," said Dr. Bulady.

It was the insistence of two brothers, two doctors from Qom, that forced the Ministry of Health to recognize the first official case.

When Dr. Mohamed Moulay and Dr. Ali Moulay lost their brother, they insisted that it still had to be tested for Covid-19, which turned out to be positive.

At Kamkar Hospital, where their brother died, many patients with symptoms similar to Covid-19 were admitted, and they did not respond to usual treatments. However, none of them were tested for the disease.

"He was so lucky," said Dr. Bulady. "Someone who has manners and influence has lost his brother. Dr. Moulay was able to reach these masters (Ministry of Health officials) and he did not give up."

Dr. Moulay posted a video of his late brother with a statement. Then the Ministry of Health finally recognized the first recorded case.

However, state television published a report criticizing and falsely claiming that his brother's video was months old.

Why cover up?

The start of the outbreak coincided with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution and the parliamentary elections.

These were great opportunities for the Islamic Republic to show its popular support and not risk being damaged by the virus.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, has accused some of the desire to use the coronavirus to undermine the elections.

In this case, the turnout was very low.

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Iranian cover-up after a Ukrainian airliner was shot down sparked anti-government protests

Before the outbreak of the global coronavirus, Iran was already plagued by a series of crises.

In November 2019, the government raised the price of gasoline overnight and violently suppressed the protests that followed. Hundreds of protesters were killed in a few days.

In January this year, the Iranian response to the assassination of the United States by the great Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who is seen as one of the most powerful figures in Iran after his Supreme Leader, created another problem.

Then, the Iranian armed forces – on high alert – accidentally fired missiles at a Ukrainian plane, just minutes after taking off from Tehran International Airport. All of the 176 people on board were killed.

The Iranian authorities initially tried to cover up what had happened, but after three days they were forced to confess to it, resulting in a major facial loss.

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Dr. Noureddine Bermuzen, the former deputy who was also in charge of the Ministry of Health, told the BBC that the Iranian government in this context is "concerned and afraid of the truth" when the coronavirus hit Iran.

He said: "The government is afraid of the poor and the unemployed taking to the streets."

Dr. Bermozen points to the fact that Iran has stopped the MSF from treating coronavirus cases in the central province of Isfahan as evidence of its security awareness of its approach to the epidemic.

Iran was going through difficult times even before the military confrontation with the United States and coronavirus infection.

The sanctions that followed Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018 severely affected the economy.

"Those who brought the country to this point don't pay the price," says Dr. Bulady. "It is the poor in the country and my poor patients who pay the price with their lives."

"In the confrontation between the governments of the United States and Iran, we are crushed under pressure from both sides."

The Ministry of Health said that state reports to the World Health Organization on the number of coronary deaths and deaths are "transparent" and "far from any deviations."

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