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Iran official: Coronavirus deaths could double if guidelines not followed

Iranian officials are warning that the 30,000 deaths reported could be much higher.

Iran's Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, who became a well-known face in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran for a press conference in which he was suffering from visible symptoms, said that the country’s official death and infection numbers could be much higher.

According to Harirchi, many patients are treated for coronavirus symptoms in hospitals, but since their test results are negative they are not counted as part of the official figures. The negative test results could be a result of false negatives. He said that according to World Health Organization protocol, the only way to count someone as part of the official statistics is if their test is positive.

Harirchi believes the actual number of coronavirus cases and deaths could be 1.5 to 2.2 times higher than the reported official numbers. Iran’s total coronavirus cases are over 500,000, and total deaths are nearly 30,000. If Harirchi is correct, the total number of Iranians infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak began in February could likely range from 750,000 to over 1 million. Also, likely deaths could range from 45,000 to over 60,000.

In the last 24 hours, 256 Iranians have died due to the coronavirus. Iran shattered its highest death totals this week on three different occasions, with a peak of 279. During the nationwide lockdown phase in April, Iran was able to bring its daily death totals to below triple figures. But since phased reopenings began, the number of deaths has increased and the country is experiencing a third wave.

Masoud Mardani, a member of the anti-coronavirus taskforce, warned that the number of deaths could double if people do not seriously adhere to travel restrictions. He said the availability of hospital beds could become a problem if current trends continue. Tehran Gov. Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey said a third of all government-run hospital beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Tehran has decided to restrict travel in and out of the province in order to bring the outbreak under control. Alireza Zali, head of the anti-coronavirus task force for Tehran, said Tehran experienced its highest daily death toll this week. He said restrictions on travel and traffic into the province and encouraging remote work will help to lower the province’s numbers.

As the country endures the third wave, and with the encouragement of more restrictions and social distancing, Health Ministry officials are warning of the toll of psychological problems. Reza Malekzadeh, a deputy at the Health Ministry, said that according to the latest statistics, 30% of the population is suffering from psychological problems. The official did not get in the details of the type of problems.

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