Iran’s Daily COVID-19 Deaths Hit Record; Health Official Says True Toll Worse

Iranian people gather at a promenade, amid a rise in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, West Tehran, Iran October 23, 2020. REUTERS./

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Iran’s daily tally of coronavirus deaths hit a record high of 434 on Sunday, the health ministry announced, and the head of a top medical body said the actual toll was at least three times higher than the official count.

The deaths, announced by Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari on state TV, take the official toll to 35,298 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country. She said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 7,719 to 620,491.

The head of Iran’s Medical Council, Mohammadreza Zafarghandi, doubted the accuracy of the official toll and warned that Iran had reached a “catastrophic mortality rate”, the Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday.

“The official death toll is only based on the number of registered patients,” Zafarghandi told ISNA. “Through field surveys in hospitals and cemeteries, our Council has obtained a figure at least three times higher than the official death toll.”

The medical council is a non-governmental organization that is responsible for licensing doctors in Iran.

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“Thousands of our health workers were infected with the virus and according to our statistics, 300 of them had died,” Zafarghandi said.

A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre in April suggested that the coronavirus toll might be almost twice as high as announced by the health ministry.

To stem a third wave of the virus in Iran, the government has shut schools, mosques, shops and restaurants in most of the country. President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday new restrictions will take effect on Wednesday in 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces for 10 days.

Measures are tighter in the capital, where authorities on Monday will decide whether to impose a complete lockdown for two weeks, state TV reported.

The interior ministry said a four-day ban on travel in and out of 25 cities, including Tehran, will be imposed from Monday, state media reported.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Peter Graff)