There are conflicting reports surrounding the official death toll from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Iran, which the healthy ministry puts at 12 as of Monday (Feb. 24).
However, another report from Qom representative Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, gave an account of 50 deaths related to COVID-19 – a claim Iranian officials rejected in Tehran.
According to state TV, the Islamic Republic of Iran has recorded 12 deaths out of 61 infections to date, with another 900 suspected cases currently being tested.
The Iranian outbreak, which began in the holy city of Qom, has forced neighbouring countries to close their borders with the Middle East republic.
Despite measures by Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, all three countries confirmed their first cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday—all with connections to Iran.
More concerningly, if Iran’s statistics are to be believed, the ratio of deaths compared to the number of confirmed cases is far higher than in any country globally, including China and newest hotspot South Korea, where the outbreak is far more widespread.
Farahani, speaking with local media following a parliamentary meeting in Tehran, disclosed that more than 250 people are quarantined in Qom.
In the meantime, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern around the latest spike in cases in Iran as well as Italy and South Korea.
“We are worried about the situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in Italy,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“It is an incredible time. Less than two months ago, the coronavirus was completely unknown to us,” Ghebreyesus said. “The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption.”