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The coronavirus has caused a full breakdown in Iran, with an unknown death toll and massive burial pits

Michelle Mark , Business Insider US
 Mar 18, 2020, 12:48 PM
  • Iran has become one of the worst-affected countries by the coronavirus pandemic, reporting nearly 1 000 deaths and more than 16 000 cases.
  • Some experts and critics of the Iranian government say it's likely the virus is far more severe than officials are reporting, alleging that leaders have sought to cover up the full extent of the outbreak.
  • Amid the worsening crisis, American sanctions on Iran have come under scrutiny as the country struggles with a shortage of medical equipment and protective gear.
  • A series of disturbing satellite images has also shown the deadliness of the virus - workers have been digging mass burial pits for weeks.
  • On Tuesday, an Iranian state TV journalist said the country could see 4 million cases of Covid-19 and 3.5 million deaths if people don't comply with the government's travel warnings and guidance to socially isolate.
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Just months into the global coronavirus crisis, Iran has emerged as one of the pandemic's hardest-hit countries, with a skyrocketing death toll, sick and dying government officials and religious leaders, and a crackdown on information.

As of Tuesday, health officials had reported 988 deaths and more than 16,000 cases across the country.

The Iranian government has been accused of a series of missteps in handling the outbreak, with critics saying the country initially downplayed the extent and severity of the outbreak and alleging a full-blown cover-up.

See also: Covid-19 update: SA now has 85 known cases, with local transmission in GP, KZN, and WC

There's even reason to believe the true number of deaths far exceeds what the government has reported. Western media reports have been skeptical about the reliability of the Iranian government's data, and satellite images captured last week show massive burial trenches that can be seen from space.

Here's how the situation has devolved in Iran and how it got so dire.

Iran's coronavirus outbreak began in Qom, the holy city in which thousands of pilgrims arrive daily. The government's first acknowledgement of the virus was on February 19, when officials reported two deaths in Qom.

Source: The New Yorker

But by that time, the coronavirus had already struck the country days — or even weeks — earlier, revealing that the outbreak could already be spiraling out of control.

Source: RFERL

In one particularly jarring moment, Iraj Harirchi, Iran's deputy health minister, aggressively wiped sweat from his forehead during a press conference in which he downplayed the severity of the outbreak. He tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.

Sources: Business Insider, The Guardian

Iran's health minister, Saeed Namaki, said officials believed the outbreak stemmed from a single merchant who frequently traveled between Qom and China.

Source: South China Morning Post

By mid-March, Iran had become one of the worst-affected countries. The only countries that have been hit harder are Italy and China, where the virus originated.

For more information direct from the source, see also:

the NICD hotline for Covid-19 is: 0800-029-999.

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