Iran Shuts Down Newspaper for Questioning Official Coronavirus Data

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani adjusts his face mask in a meeting of the national headquarters of the fight against the COVID-19, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, July 18, 2020. He estimated as many as 25 million Iranians …
Iranian Presidency Office via AP

The Iranian regime shut down a local newspaper on Monday, one day after it published an article by a health expert accusing Tehran of massively underreporting the nation’s official coronavirus numbers, Kurdistan 24 revealed on Wednesday.

Iranian newspaper Jahane San’at published a report on Sunday by epidemiologist Mohammed Reza Mahboobfar, who worked on Iran’s Coronavirus Combat Taskforce. In the article, Mahboobfar says that the “real” number of coronavirus cases in Iran could be “twenty times higher” than official figures provided by Iran’s health ministry. The ministry claims that there have been just over 330,000 infections and 19,000 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus in Iran so far.

Mahboobfar also alleges that authorities first detected the Chinese coronavirus in Iran at least one month before the government officially acknowledged its presence in the country in mid-February. According to Mahboobfar, the regime delayed its announcement of a coronavirus outbreak in Iran “until after the commemorations of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and parliamentary elections earlier that month [in February]” had concluded.

“[T]he administration resorted to secrecy for political and security reasons,” providing only “engineered statistics” to the Iranian public, Mahboobfar added.

Following Jahane San’at’s publishing of Mahboobfar’s article on Sunday, Iran’s health ministry immediately denied the epidemiologist’s allegations. Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari dismissed Mahboobfar’s statements as “incorrect,” claiming Tehran has been “transparent” in reporting accurate coronavirus data. The spokeswoman also claimed that Mahboobfar had not been a member of the government’s anti-coronavirus taskforce, according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.

In his article, Mahboobfar also criticized Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for refusing to cancel religious gatherings planned for the upcoming Islamic month of Muharram, which starts August 20, Radio Free Europe’s Radio Farda reported. He accused Rouhani of ignoring the advice of health experts and warned of a possible “third wave” or surge in coronavirus cases this fall, in which he predicts the number of daily new cases “rising even to four figures.”

Another member of Iran’s coronavirus taskforce, Dr. Minoo Mohraz, seconded Mahboobfar’s warning of a pending third wave yesterday, according to the report. Mohraz added that the minimal virus prevention protocols announced by Iran’s Health Ministry for Muharram — such as mask-wearing and physical distancing — were unlikely to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the religious ceremonies.

At press time on Thursday, Iran officially reported 336,324 cases and 19,162 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus. However, global health authorities seriously doubt the Iranian regime’s official coronavirus data, believing the true number of cases to be much higher. Leaked government documents published by the BBC earlier this month showed Iran’s coronavirus death toll was triple the figure officially reported.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a dissident group, reported on Thursday that over 87,900 people in Iran have died from coronavirus.

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