Experts and critics of the Iranian government have alleged a cover-up, saying the virus outbreak is likely far more severe than officials say.
- Iran has become one of the worst-affected countries by the coronavirus pandemic, reporting nearly 1,000 deaths and more than 16,000 cases.
- Some experts and critics of the Iranian government say it's likely the virus is far more severe than officials are reporting, alleging that leaders have sought to cover up the full extent of the outbreak.
- Amid the worsening crisis, American sanctions on Iran have come under scrutiny as the country struggles with a shortage of medical equipment and protective gear.
- A series of disturbing satellite images has also shown the deadliness of the virus — workers have been digging mass burial pits for weeks.
- On Tuesday, an Iranian state TV journalist said the country could see 4 million cases of COVID-19 and 3.5 million deaths if people don't comply with the government's travel warnings and guidance to socially isolate.
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Just months into the global coronavirus crisis, Iran has emerged as one of the pandemic's hardest-hit countries, with a skyrocketing death toll, sick and dying government officials and religious leaders, and a crackdown on information.
The Iranian government has been accused of a series of missteps in handling the outbreak, with critics saying the country initially downplayed the extent and severity of the outbreak and alleging a full-blown cover-up.
There's even reason to believe the true number of deaths far exceeds what the government has reported. Western media reports have been skeptical about the reliability of the Iranian government's data, and satellite images captured last week show massive burial trenches that can be seen from space.
Here's how the situation has devolved in Iran and how it got so dire.
Iran's health minister, Saeed Namaki, said officials believed the outbreak stemmed from a single merchant who frequently traveled between Qom and China.
Source: South China Morning Post
By mid-March, Iran had become one of the worst-affected countries. The only countries that have been hit harder are Italy and China, where the virus originated.
The extent of the outbreak has been astonishing, with leaders, top officials, lawmakers, clerics, and members of the country's Revolutionary Guard all growing ill.
On March 17, the state news agency IRNA reported that the 78-year-old Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani died just two days after he tested positive for the virus. The powerful cleric had been a member of the body charged with appointing the supreme leader.
Source: Al Jazeera
But even as citizens and top officials grew ill, the Iranian government predicted that the outbreak would not be a problem. Early reports indicated that security agents were placed in each hospital to forbid workers from leaking information about fatalities or equipment shortages.
Namaki, the health minister, also announced a plan to deploy 300,000 militiamen to go door-to-door and disinfect residents' homes — though many doctors pushed back, saying the militiamen might further transmit the virus.
Source: The New York Times
Officials have also threatened to execute people who stockpile protective items like face masks.
Source: The New York Times
Some critics have also said American sanctions on Iran have prevented the country from receiving necessary medical supplies, humanitarian relief, and raw materials. Iranian health workers have also reported difficulties in receiving masks, ventilators, and other protective gear to treat patients.
Source: Foreign Policy