Iran’s Health Ministry: China’s Coronavirus Numbers a ‘Bitter Joke’

In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Iran has been the hardest hit country by the new coronavirus in the Middle East. For most people, the new coronavirus …
Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP

A spokesman for Iran’s health ministry called China’s coronavirus numbers a “bitter joke” in a video media conference on Sunday.

“It seems statistics from China was a bitter joke because many in the world thought this is just like influenza, with fewer deaths. This [impression] were based on reports from China and now it seems China made a bitter joke with the rest of the world,” the spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, said, according to Radio Farda, the Persian affiliate of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

“If in China they say an epidemic was controlled in two months, one should really think about it,” Jahanpur added.

Responding to the statement via Twitter on Sunday, Chang Hua, the Chinese ambassador to Iran, told Jahanpur he should follow daily press conferences “carefully in order to draw conclusions,” According to Radio Farda. Chang also instructed the Iranian official to “show respect to the truths and great efforts of the people of China.”

Replying to Chang on Twitter, Jahanpur pointed out that the Iranian Health Ministry also held daily press conferences which “will be useful for honorable ambassadors and the media in all countries particularly in friendly countries.”

Jahanpur later tweeted: “Scientific issues can’t and should not be mixed with politics. On the basis of epidemiological information of Chinese researchers, 11 academic bodies in the world thought that at least Type A influenza was worse than coronavirus. Today’s findings show the opposite.”

Many media reports in recent days have cast doubt on China’s numbers. On Sunday, China claimed that in Wuhan – the epicenter of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic – just 2,500 people had died, while the death toll is much higher in Europe and the United States.

The death rate per one million people in Spain and Italy is about 250. China claims its official death rate per one million is just two. In the United States, deaths per one million were 26 as of April 4.

Iran has been accused of lying about its true coronavirus numbers, as well. Many believe Iran downplayed its initial coronavirus outbreak due to its hesitancy to cut ties with China, one of its closest political and economic allies. Thus, Iran’s deviation from the typical façade of cooperation it maintains with China underscores the severity of the cover-up.

Health Ministry Spokesman Jahanpur has also questioned Iran’s official coronavirus numbers. On March 19, Jahanpur broke rank and admitted to the world via social media that Iran was recording a new coronavirus death every ten minutes. The following week, on March 23, Jahanpur objected to a public funeral for Iranian terrorist leader Hossein Assadollahi, in which thousands gathered in defiance of coronavirus social distancing measures.

At press time on Monday, China’s official coronavirus numbers stood at 82,665 infections and 3,335 deaths. However, at the end of March, Radio Free Asia (RFA), also a Radio Farda affiliate, published a report in which it estimated there had been 46,800 deaths in Wuhan alone, based on information drawn from projected cremations at local funeral homes.

Also at press time on Monday, Iran’s official coronavirus numbers were 60,500 infections and 3,739 deaths. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a dissident group, by Monday more than 19,500 people had died across Iran.

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