Iran estimates country has seen up to 25 million Covid-19 cases as Tehran re-enters lockdown

Claiming that the country’s death toll sits at around 14,000, he cited a new study by the Iranian health ministry. Officials have not explained what their estimates are based on and the study has not been made public.

Lockdown restrictions were reimposed in Tehran on Saturday, with authorities placing a one-week ban on religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.

Twenty-two other cities and towns in the southwestern Khuzestan Province will also see restrictions tightened for three days, including in Behbahan, where police fired teargas into a crowd protesting over economic hardships on Thursday.

Some 25 million Iranians have probably been infected with coronavirus, Hassan Rouhani has said, warning that an additional 30 to 35 million more could contract the infection in the coming months.

The president revealed the unprecedented figure – which would account for nearly a third of Iran’s population – in a televised speech in which he sought to ensure citizens of what is widely believed to be the hardest-hit country in the Middle East that the pandemic was being taken seriously.

Iran has so far identified 270,000 cases and at least 13,979 deaths, and has seen daily death tolls spike to their highest levels in recent weeks. Health officials have reported 2,166 new cases and 188 deaths in the last 24 hours.

However, the official death toll remains based on cases where people died in coronavirus wards in hospitals, and it is believed that many more have died at home. Some families have reportedly asked doctors not to mention their loved ones died of the virus to avoid an associated stigma

A parliamentary report in April said Iran’s death toll is likely nearly double the officially reported figures. Given insufficient testing, the report said the number of people infected at the time was probably “eight to 10 times” higher than the reported figures.

In his speech on Saturday, Mr Rouhani said that more than 200,000 people had been hospitalised with Covid-19 and that the health ministry expected that number to soon be “twice as many as we have seen in the last 150 days”.

Before Iran reported its first cases of the virus in February, authorities denied it had reached the country for days, allowing the virus time to spread.

The nation marked the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution with mass demonstrations and then held a parliamentary election in which authorities desperately sought to boost turnout.

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