Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur wrote on social media Thursday that Iran is documenting a new death at the hands of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic every ten minutes.
The astonishing death rate calls into question the official Iranian Islamic regime numbers, which at press time stand at slightly below 1,500 deaths and nearly 20,000 confirmed cases. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the nation’s largest dissident organization, has kept its own tally of Chinese coronavirus deaths, citing sources within the country, and found the true death toll at over 7,000 since the outbreak began, as of Thursday. While Iranian medical experts have identified the city of Qom, a popular destination for Shiite Muslim pilgrimages, as the origin of the outbreak in Iran, they have no offered any information on when the first patients was identified there or how the virus entered the country.
Iran is a close diplomatic ally of China, the nation that allowed the outbreak to spread from the central city of Wuhan where it began and arrested doctors who warned of the contagious nature of the disease before the outbreak became a pandemic.
“Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Jahanpur, the Health Ministry spokesman, posted on Twitter, according to Reuters.
Tehran’s failure to protect its citizens and treat those ill from viral infection did not deter an attempt to disparage the American government on Thursday, offering unspecified aid to the United States to compensate for America’s allegedly incompetent healthcare system.
“Iran is ready to help American control [the] coronavirus,” Iranian Deputy Health Minister Ali-Reza Raeisi said. “The United States’ health care system is incapable of controlling the coronavirus epidemic. Not that we take delight in the U.S. incompetence. As a Muslim country, we do not take delight in anyone’s ailment.”
The Iranian regime has attempted to downplay the severity of the outbreak there for weeks. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the pandemic as “not such a big tragedy” and urged Iranians to wage “jihad” against the virus early in March. Khamenei’s dismissive response contrasted with the increasingly alarmed warnings from President Hassan Rouhani.
The number of cases confirmed by Tehran also appeared not to match the numbers out of local governments. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) – which has defended multiple dictatorships for their unfortunate responses to the outbreak so far, first and foremost China – admitted that Iran’s count was likely far from the real number of cases in the country.
Rick Brennan, Director of Emergency Operations for the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program, estimated on Monday that Iran’s real number of Chinese coronavirus cases is about five times more than official estimates.
“We’ve said the weakest link in their chain is the data. They are rapidly increasing their ability to test and so the numbers will go up,” Brennan told reporters after returning from Iran.
“The number of those killed may be higher but we may have not reached such a conclusion from our tests … Some have died and we may have not realized that they were coronavirus victims,” Iranian cabinet spokesman Ali Rabie said on Thursday, according to the NCRI. “There may be some failures in delivering stats, too… At times you see that our announcements have some mishaps.”
The Ayatollah himself appeared to acknowledge some of Iran’s tremendous failure in containing the virus during his Persian New Year (Nowruz) speech on Friday. Khamenei, an octogenarian and thus at high risk of death if infected with the Chinese coronavirus, took the extraordinary measure of issuing his remarks from a safe location rather than venture to the location in Mashhad where he would typically make his remarks.
“There are some people who think that there is a shortcoming of duties in some organizations of the country, but I do not agree with this,” Khamenei said, according to transcribed remarks published by the Iranian state propaganda outlet PressTV. “I am witnessing this up close and I see that everyone is busy working hard. Everyone is working within the scope of their capability.”
“However, what I want to say is that what has already been done is not even one-tenth of what the country needs,” Khamenei added. “Of course, ‘one-tenth’ is not a hard statistical figure, but I estimate it to be around one-tenth. This means that we need to do ten times more work – including research, work related to production and various other tasks – so that boosting production can exert its effects in the lives of the people.”
Khamenei acknowledged the elimination of his top terrorist, Major General Qassem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, after a U.S. airstrike, but did not repeat prior claims that the Chinese coronavirus could be a biological weapon deployed by America and its allies against Iran. He also applauded the “jihadists in the arena of health,” meaning Iran’s doctors and other medical professionals, for having “performed brilliantly in recent weeks.”
Despite acknowledging that Iran’s government should be working ten times harder to protect its citizens, Khamenei predicted that the deadly pandemic “will turn out to be to the advantage of the Iranian nation.”