Coronavirus shock: Iran politician claims virus has ‘killed 50 people’ in ‘hot spot’ city

Up until last night, around 50 people died from coronavirus. The health minister is to blame

Ahmad Amirabadi Farhani

And one expert in infectious diseases has suggested the country could become a “hotspot” for “seeding” countries outside Iran with the virus, officially known as Covid-19. The Iranian Government this morning put the total number of deaths for the entire country at 12 – but Ahmad Amirabadi Farhani, a Parliamentary representative for the city of Qom, insisted the true figure was many times higher. The semi-official ILNA news agency reported Mr Farhani as saying: “Up until last night, around 50 people died from coronavirus. The health minister is to blame.

“I think the performance of the administration in controlling the virus has not been successful.

“None of the nurses have access to proper protective gear.

“So far, I have not seen any particular action to confront coronavirus by the administration.”

By contrast, the country’s health ministry insisted the lower death toll was correct – while saying the number of cases had risen to 61.

If correct, that would make the ratio of deaths to cases in Iran far higher than anywhere else in the world, including China, where the outbreak was first reported at the end of last year.

Health Ministry spokesman Iraj Harirchi rejected Mr Farhani’s claims, but said roughly 900 other suspected cases were being tested.

He added: “No one is qualified to discuss this sort of news at all.”

Virologist Ian Mackay, of the University of Queensland in Australia, said the latest figures reported meant Iran “could become the hot spot for seeding countries that have travel with Iran – a source outside of China.”

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Concerns about the virus may have impacted the turnout for Iran’s parliamentary election on Friday, which the Iranian government says was 45 percent, but which critics claim was in fact much lower.

Even 45 percent would be disappointing, given religious leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei proclaimed on the eve of the poll it was the “religious duty” of citizens to cast a ballot.

Chatham House’s Dr Sanam Vakil, an expert on Iranian affairs, told the situation in the country remained unclear.

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She said: “The news is just trickling out and the government is trying to catch up and demonstrate that it can handle the outbreak.

“It remains to be seen how quickly they can get things under control.

“They have shut down schools and events for two weeks.

“The issue is indeed worrying to say the least.”

Meanwhile, asked about the implications of the low turnout, she added: “The Trump administration will no doubt see the election as a sign of decreasing support for the Iranian government and it will embolden them to continue their policies.

“It is unlikely though that a popular uprising will ensue at a time of declining economic prosperity and in absence of leadership alternatives.”

The World Health Organisation’s latest figures, published yesterday, put the total number of coronavirus cases at 28, including 10 new ones, with five deaths.

Even the WHO’s death toll exceeds that of any other country except for China and South Korea.

A WHO spokesman told the latest figures – including those for Iran – would be confirmed later today.

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