Written bySiddhant Pandey ·
Iranian authorities on Friday announced an official death toll of 34, however, news reports pegged the tally was much higher at 210.
The discrepancy has sparked rumors of an alleged cover-up as the outbreak worsens.
Here are more details.
Iran's Health Ministry on Friday announced that 34 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.
The Ministry also confirmed 388 cases of infection in the nation.
The tally indicates that the death toll jumped 30% from the previous day, while confirmed cases increased by 58%.
The Ministry warned of a "pretty difficult week" ahead.
The coronavirus scare in Iran is amplified by the fact that at least seven officials, including the Deputy Health Minister, tested positive for the infection.
Iran is also the epicenter of the outbreak in the Middle East, with several cases in neighboring countries tracing back to Iran.
The capital of Tehran and the city of Qom—where coronavirus first emerged in Iran—are the worst hit.
BBC Persia reported 210 coronavirus-related deaths in Iran by Thursday night, citing sources in the country's health system.
Unfortunately, if the official tally is accurate, it would imply that the coronavirus death rate in Iran is close to 10%, when it has been established by the World Health Organization at around 2%.
The official tally hints that the actual infected cases may be higher.
Several Iranian hospitals notably lack testing equipment required to confirm coronavirus infections. The Health Ministry said it would increase its testing capacity by next week, also accusing the BBC of lying. However, a Member of Parliament in Qom alleged a cover-up.
Amid conflicting reports on coronavirus-related deaths, Nahid Khodakarami, the head of the health committee for Tehran's City Council, said, "It's likely between 10,000-15,000 people in Iran have been infected with coronavirus," adding to the confusion.
Iranian media also misreported the death of a prominent athlete, Elham Sheikhi.
The media mistook her for another woman of the same name and age, who died from coronavirus.
Irrespective of the current impact, the Health Ministry confirmed that the outbreak will get worse. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on Friday, "The trajectory we see suggests a main peak of the disease in the next week and next coming days."
Raising concerns about Iran's ability to tackle the disease, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "Their health care infrastructure is not robust."
Pompeo also raised questions about Iran's "willingness to share information" on the outbreak's impact.
Recently, it was reported that US intelligence agencies have been monitoring the global spread of the disease, and were concerned about Iran and India.
The novel coronavirus outbreak originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in mid-December.
Since then, the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 has reached at least 47 countries around the world.
The disease impacts a host's respiratory system and causes flu-like symptoms.
It has caused 2,924 deaths, mostly in mainland China, and also infected over 85,000 people around the world.
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