World Coronavirus: what is the real scale of the epidemic in Iran?

23:01  29 february  2020
23:01  29 february  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  Coronavirus: quelle est l'ampleur réelle de l'épidémie en Iran? © Provided by Le Point

International experts question the real extent of the epidemic of new coronavirus in Iran, the country that already has the highest number of deaths outside China and a source of contamination that could spread the disease In the region.

If Tehran does not deny that the epidemic is "spreading" with 43 confirmed deaths and 593 cases, other unofficial reports are much heavier.

According to the Persian service of the BBC, which depends on the British audiovisual group public, the death toll would amount to 210, a figure immediately denied on Saturday by the Iranian Ministry of Health.

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The opposition organization in exile of the People's Mujahideen, considered as "terrorist" by Tehran, for its part affirmed that the epidemic had left "more than 300 dead" and up to "15,000" infected in the country .

Six epidemiologists based in Canada have estimated, via a mathematical model, that Iran could have more than 18,000 cases on its soil.

Their calculations, not yet validated by their peers, take into account the number of cases in foreign countries originating from a trip to Iran.

"When a country begins to export cases to other destinations, it is very likely that the infection in this country is significant," said AFP Isaac Bogoch, specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and co-author of this study published on February 25 on the MedRxiv platform.

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"Position of weakness"

This week, the NGO Reporters Without Borders joined the concert of critics against Tehran on this crisis, accusing the regime of hiding information on the spread of the new coronavirus.

"The authorities claim to control the situation, but refuse to publish the exact number of those infected and dead," said the organization.

On Saturday, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health Kianouche Jahanpour reacted to these criticisms by accusing the foreign media of disseminating false information.

"Among the radicals in Iran, there is an obsession not to give a weapon to the enemy and not to appear in a position of weakness", analyzes Thierry Coville, specialist in Iran at the Institute of relations international and strategic (Iris).

"Talking about the coronavirus will soon be considered as disturbing public opinion, acting against national security and insulting the president!", Said Assieh Bakeri, an Iranian, on Twitter.

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"It is worrying"

Another figure calls to mind: with more than 7% of deaths for the number of cases identified, Iran displays a ratio "number of cases / number of deaths" largely higher than that of other countries .

In China, for example, it is two times lower (3.5%), as is the case in Italy (2%), two countries which are strongly affected.

"In Iran, the first cases were detected with the death of patients. So if we calculate the ratio between the number of cases and the number of deaths in this way, it will be very high", explains AFP Cécile Viboud , epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health (United States).

Regardless of the veracity of the official figures, Iran is undoubtedly one of the main sources of contamination outside of China.

A situation worsened by the current economic situation. The country is going through a major crisis with the re-establishment since 2018 of American sanctions which particularly affect its oil exports.

"Why has Iran not stopped flights to China? There is a rational explanation: China is one of the last countries to buy oil from them. They need to maintain this link economic, "recalls Thierry Coville.

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"With the sanctions, we can say that the government has lost at least 30% of its budgetary revenue. This necessarily has an impact on their health system," added the researcher.

Located at the gates of the Middle East and some countries with delicate humanitarian situations, this home is cause for concern.

"This is worrying, both for public health in Iran and for the high probability of spread to neighboring countries whose capacities to respond to an epidemic of an infectious disease are weaker", underline the Canadian epidemiologists in their study.

Several countries such as Qatar, Azerbaijan, Lebanon and even Iraq have recorded cases of contamination on their soil of people returning from Iran.

Iranian authorities have started to take measures to stem the spread of the epidemic: cancellation of the big Friday prayer in several cities, closings of all schools until Tuesday, closing of Parliament "until further notice" and restrictions on free movement within the country.

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02/29/2020 20:52:38 - Paris (AFP) - © 2020 AFP

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