An Iranian member of Parliament on Friday said cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in the country were much more widespread than officials have reported.
“I say this explicitly, the statistics presented so far are not true,” MP Gholamali Jafarzadeh Imenabadi told Al-Arabiya, a Saudi news network, adding that the “horrific numbers” of deaths have been recorded by cemeteries in Imenabadi’s city of Rasht, in northern Iran.
“I have statistics about the number of deaths due to coronavirus from three different cemeteries in Rasht and I have to say that the numbers are much higher than what is being said,” Imenabadi added. “It is not as if we can hide the cemeteries.”
Another Iranian MP, Mahmoud Sadeghi, has alleged the government is hiding the outbreak, while Turkey warned on February 21 that Iran had already seen about 750 cases. An Iranian Parliament spokesman announced on Wednesday that any citizen found to be “spreading rumors” about the virus would be sentenced to flogging and one-to-three years in prison.
As of Friday, Iran has reported 388 cases of the illness, with 34 deaths. The BBC reported that the death toll was “at least” 210, citing sources at Iranian hospitals. Friday prayers throughout the country were canceled.
A number of Iranian government officials have contracted the coronavirus. In a highly publicized case, deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi was filmed sweating profusely and wiping his face with a handkerchief at a press conference meant to update officials on the spread of coronavirus. Just one day after the reassuring the country that the virus was under control, Harirchi confirmed that he had contracted the illness.