Coronavirus cases in Iran could be as high as 1,500: Experts

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The number of people infected with coronavirus in Iran could be as high as 1,500, experts say, versus the government’s official number of 95 cases, reported on Tuesday.

The estimate is based on Iran’s official death toll, which stood at 15 on Tuesday, and the global estimates, which place the death rate per symptomatic case in the range of 1 to 2 percent, according to Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University.

“If we assume that the rate of death per case is in the same range in Iran that it is elsewhere, then that implies that there are between 750 to 1,500 symptomatic cases in Iran. But that would be making the assumption that the Iranian severity is similar to the severity elsewhere,” said Dr. Lipsitch in an interview with Al Arabiya English, adding that the estimate could be incorrect if the people infected had no access to medical care or if the virus spread in a group of people who were at risk of complications.

Professor of epidemiology at Yale University’s School of Public Health Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood estimated on Monday that the number of people infected with coronavirus in Iran is “likely in the hundreds,” given the confirmed number of 12 dead at the time, but said it is hard to tell “since the exact number of COVID-19 cases in Iran has not been reported.”

Pharmacists talk with customers at a drugstore in downtown Tehran on Feb. 25, 2020. (AP)
Pharmacists talk with customers at a drugstore in downtown Tehran on Feb. 25, 2020. (AP)

Iranian parliament members and US officials have been critical of the Iranian regime’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, accusing the health ministry of downplaying the epidemic.

Iranian parliament member Ahmad Amirabadi Farhani said on Monday the coronavirus had killed around 50 people just in Qom, the city he represents.

“Up until last night, around 50 people died from coronavirus. The health minister is to blame,” Farhani said on Monday, according to the semi-official ILNA news agency.

Iranian parliament member Mahmoud Sadeghi, who represents Tehran, announced on Tuesday he had tested positive for the virus.

“My corona test is positive ... I don't have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world,” Mahmoud Sadeghi wrote on Twitter.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the United States was “deeply concerned” Iran may have covered up details about the spread of coronavirus.

“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” Pompeo told reporters, adding that all nations, including Iran, should “tell the truth about the coronavirus.”

Outside of China, Iran has highest death toll from coronavirus, known scientifically as COVID-19.

The deaths from the coronavirus in Iran are the first in the Middle East.

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