Iranian lawmaker alleges govt covering up number of virus deaths

Commuters wear masks to help guard against the coronavirus on a public bus in downtown Tehran. (AP pic)

TEHRAN: A lawmaker from Iran’s Qom on Monday accused the government of covering up the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the holy city, according to semi-official news agency ISNA.

In the report, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani accused Iran’s health minister of “lying” about the outbreak, which authorities say has killed 12 people in Iran.

The ILNA news agency, which is close to reformists, said the lawmaker spoke of “50 deaths” in Qom alone.

“The rest of the media have not published this figure, but we prefer not to censor what concerns the coronavirus because people’s lives are in danger,” ILNA editor Fatemeh Madiani told AFP.

But the country’s deputy health minister rejected the report.

“I categorically deny this information,” Iraj Harirchi said in a news conference aired live on state television.

“This is not the time for political confrontations. The coronavirus is a national problem,” he added.

Iran’s government pledged to be transparent about the outbreak.

“We will announce any figures (we have) on the number of deaths throughout the country. We pledge to be transparent about the reporting of figures,” its spokesman Ali Rabiei said.

Iran has been scrambling to contain the Covid-19 outbreak since it announced the first two deaths in the holy city of Qom on Wednesday last week.

Since then, it has said a total of 12 people have died from the virus among 64 infections.