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Coronavirus: Iran accused of cover up as documents claim death toll three times higher

Government's own records appear to show almost 42,000 deaths against 14,405 reported by health ministry, BBC finds
Iran has been the worst affected country in the Middle East and North Africa from Covid-19 (AFP)

The number of people in Iran who have died from the coronavirus is triple the official death toll with the highest number of deaths in Tehran, an investigation claims. 

Anonymous sources told the BBC Persian news service that Iranian officials had purposely reported significantly lower daily numbers of deaths despite having a record of all the fatalities.

The Iranian government's own records appear to show almost 42,000 people died with coronavirus symptoms up to 20 July, against 14,405 reported by the country's health ministry.

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Meanwhile, the number of people known to be infected is almost double official figures, standing at 451,024 as against 278,827.

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this year, local Iranian officials and analysts had repeatedly questioned disparities between national and regional death toll numbers. 

The data sent to the BBC includes details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The data shows Tehran had the highest number of deaths in the country, with the city of Qom being the worst hit proportionally with 1,419 deaths, or one death for every 1,000 people. 

The leaked documents also indicated that there was a disproportionate number of deaths among migrants and refugees, with most coming from Afghanistan. 

One death every seven minutes

Iran has faced the worst outbreak of the coronavirus in the Middle East since the first cases were reported in February. 

Earlier on Monday, Iran said one person was dying from Covid-19 every seven minutes, with 215 new deaths from the disease. 

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On Sunday, Iranian officials had reported the highest number of infections in nearly a month, with 208 new deaths in the past 24 hours. 

Iranian health ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari said 2,685 new cases of the virus had been detected in the last day, with at least 1,423 having been hospitalised. 

Sadat Lari added that 4,089 other patients are in critical condition and being treated in intensive care units, while a total of 2,508,418 tests have so far been carried out in the country.

The latest official figures are the highest single-day count since 8 July, bringing the total number of cases to 309,437 infections and 17,190 fatalities.