The doctor, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said the official tally vastly underestimates the true number of cases. “We didn’t have a way to test people earlier and don’t have the capacity to screen everyone,” he said, in a telephone interview. “Let me put it this way, if in general two out of 100 corona patients die, in Iran, if we now have 20 deaths that means we have 1,000 infected patients.”
The disease is now widely spread across Iran, with the largest concentration reported in the lush northern province of Gilan the holy city of Qom. Earlier this week, a lawmaker from the holy city, Ahmad Amirabadi , announced the death toll in Qom “has reached 50 people”— a claim that was immediately rejected by government officials, including the deputy Health Minister Iraj Haririchi who also advised against mandatory quarantine and called it a “pre world war era” strategy. On Tuesday Harirchi himself tested positive for the virus and is now undergoing treatment.
Since the government’s public acknowledgment of the coronavirus in Iran, a number of public officials have been diagnosed with the disease.