An Iranian newspaper has been shut down for reporting an interview which said the ‘true’ death toll from coronavirus was 20 times higher than official government figures. 

The Jahan-e Sanat publication, an economics-focussed daily newspaper, was shut down for publishing an interview with a former member of the national coronavirus task force, according to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Mohammadreza Saadi.

Mohammadreza Mahboubfar, an epidemiologist, was quoted saying the death toll from the epidemic could be 20 times higher than official figures. Fatalities could be as high as 37,000 with 6.5million cases. 

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Women wearing protective face masks shop at a bazaar following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, July 8, 2020

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Official figures from Iran, which one official said could be 20 times lower than the true number of cases 

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Official figures from Iran, which one official said could be 20 times lower than the true number of deaths

‘The figures announced by the officials on coronavirus cases and deaths account for only 5 per cent of the country’s real tolls,’ Mahboubfar said.  

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari rejected Mahboubfar’s remarks and said he was not a member of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, according to IRNA.

It was not clear if she meant he had never been a member of the body, as claimed by the newspaper.

Mahboubfar told the newspaper that authorities had detected the coronavirus in January, while Iran announced its first infections and two deaths from the virus on  19 February.

‘There was no transparent flow of information…The government only provided engineered figures…over concerns about (its impact) on the election and the commemorations of the revolution anniversary,’ Mahboubfar told the daily.

Reuters reported in April that authorities refrained from announcing the spread of the coronavirus in Iran out of concern that it would unsettle the public ahead of parliamentary elections on Feb. and the celebrations for the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. 

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Iranian newspaper is shut down for reporting 'true' death toll from covid is 20 times higher than …

Iranian President (right) and Iranian Health Minister Said Nemecky (left) attend the National Combat Board Meeting with Coronavirus in Tehran, Iran on August 01, 2020

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries from COVID-19 in the Middle East, with 18,616 dead and 328,844 infected cases.

Some experts and lawmakers have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliamentâs research centre in April suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

It said Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronaviru   

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