Leaked data reveal substantial under-reporting by Iran of COVID-19 toll

The number of deaths from COVID-19 infections are shown to be about three times more than the official toll.

Tuesday 04/08/2020
Nurses tend to COVID-19 patients at the Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Nurses tend to COVID-19 patients at the Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital in Tehran, Iran. (AP)

LONDON - Data leaked from Iran showed that Tehran has been under-reporting the pandemic’s toll on its population.

The detailed information sent by an anonymous Iranian source to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Persian service, based on the government’s own data, revealed that the number of deaths from COVID-19 infections was about three times more than the official toll.

“The government’s own records appear to show almost 42,000 people died with Covid-19 symptoms up to 20 July, versus 14,405 reported by its health ministry,” said the BBC report.

“The number of people known to be infected is also almost double official figures: 451,024 as opposed to 278,827.”

The official count as of August 4 stands at bit more than 314,000 confirmed cases and 17,617 deaths.

A report by the research arm of Iran’s parliament said last May the number of deaths could be 80% higher than officials numbers from the Health Ministry

The anonymous source told the BBC he wanted to leak the data to “shed light on truth” and to end “political games” over the disease.

The BBC dismissed the possibility of methodological flaws in Tehran’s accounts seeing a pattern of systematic misrepresentation of the health situation in Iran.

Iranians shop in the capital Tehran on August 4. (AFP)
Iranians shop in the capital Tehran on August 4. (AFP)

Dr Nouradin Pirmoazen, a former MP who served as an official at the health ministry, said the Iranian government was “anxious and fearful of the truth” when coronavirus hit the country.

He added: “The government was afraid that the poor and the unemployed would take to the streets.”

Around 10,000 Iranian health workers have been reported to have been infected with the coronavirus, the semi-official ILNA news agency said last May. The Health Ministry said in April that over 100 health workers had died of COVID-19.

A list compiled by a group of Iranian doctors found that a total of 126 medical staffers have died since the virus was first reported, mostly in the provinces of Gilan and Tehran.

In a clear admission of the inaccuracy of the official figures, Iranian President Hassan Rohani recently said that 25 million Iranians may have been infected with the coronavirus, a figure that has left many Iranians in shock.