On April 12, the Research Center of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) released a report suggesting that the number of coronavirus cases in Iran was much higher than official government figures.
The report was titled “Fighting the Spread of Coronavirus (18): A Progress Report on the Control of the COVID-19 in the Country: Predicting the Second Wave of the Virus and Making Preparations.”
“According to official figures, as of April 4, the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 had infected 55,743 people and claimed 3,452 lives in Iran. The epidemic has not reached its peak yet,” the report’s summary said. “China halted the life cycle of the coronavirus in eight to nine weeks by placing the entire country in quarantine. North Korea stopped the spread of the virus through a comprehensive nationwide testing scheme, identifying those infected and contact tracing.”
“Iran has not implemented either of these methods correctly. The country has not placed the cities in complete lockdown, not even the epicenters of the infection. Also, we have not seen a coherent policy for testing and quarantine,” the report noted. “Some epidemiologists have warned of the second wave of infection. They cannot, however, predict the exact time or scale of it, because it depends on several factors.”
“It would appear that some viruses have a seasonal life cycle, which suggests that the coronavirus may return during the cold months,” the report explained. “We will probably not distinguish the first wave of the infection from the second wave, given the current long epidemic curve in the country.”
“To update the results of its findings, the Research Center of the Majlis has repeatedly asked the National Headquarters for Fighting Coronavirus for more comprehensive data, but has yet to receive any,” the report noted. “This report is, therefore, based on the information and official data available to us.”
“According to reports by the government officials and the National Headquarters for Fighting Coronavirus, the infection reached its peak seven weeks after the virus first arrived in Iran, but the epidemic curve has flattened now.” the report pointed out. “Official data shows that 100 cases were detected in the first week of the outbreak, but the number had increased by 2,800 and 8,300, respectively, in the second and third week of the epidemic.”
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, [the laboratory technique] RT-PCR [Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction] has been the official standard protocol for identifying all COVID-19 cases in the country. The test is administered to patients who are hospitalized after showing severe symptoms,” the report explained. “Based on what happened in China, we know that 80 percent of people who are infected show only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic altogether. They are neither hospitalized nor do they go to a clinic. They are, therefore, not included in the data.”
“The results of RT-PCR tests could vary depending on when and how the sample is taken (from nose, mouth, or lungs),” the report noted. “Various studies have shown that the test has between 35 percent to 85 percent rate of accuracy. That means between 30 percent to 40 percent of patients test negative despite the [CT] scan of their lungs, showing they most likely have the disease.”
“We can, therefore, conclude that the number of those who have died of coronavirus in the country — which should include people whom the current official testing protocol ignores — is 0.8 times higher than the official figures,” the report said. “Also, the number of infection cases is between 8 and 10 times higher than the official figure.”
“According to the ‘zero-intervention’ model by the Ministry of Health and Medical Sciences’ epidemiological working group, 60 million people would contract the disease, with the virus staying in the country for 400 days and the epidemic reaching its peak in October,” the report explained. “However, depending on the scale and the extent of the intervention and isolation, Tehran and the entire country will face four different scenarios.”
“According to these findings, 811,000 people would contract the virus, and 6,000 would die in the country if 40 percent of the population were in isolation,” the report pointed out. “Global studies have warned that models that are based on a lower isolation rate of 70 percent show that it would be difficult to sustain social distancing for a long period. Isolating 80 percent to 90 percent of the population could bring the disease under control within 13 to 14 weeks, particularly if combining isolation with a ban on international travel.”
“Studies have shown that it would be impossible to distinguish the first and second wave of the infection in Iran unless the current situation is contained by late June,” the report warned.
According to the report, by late September, the second wave might kill up to 9,000 people in Iran.
This article was translated and adapted from Persian by Fardine Hamidi.