There is a state-sponsored media blackout over the coronavirus threat in Iran, a leading activist has claimed.
Countries neighbouring Iran have closed their borders as the country sees highest number of deadly COVID-19 coronavirus cases outside China – so far there are 139 cases and 19 deaths have been confirmed.
However the real number is thought to be much higher, with reports suggesting the number of deaths in the city of Qom alone, has reached 50.
The rapid spread of the respiratory killer comes as Iranian citizens were subjected to a state-issued a "coronavirus cover-up" to ensure a good turn out at the February 23 national election, it is claimed.
Now much of the Middle East is on lockdown as neighbouring countries shut their borders and suspended flights to and from Iran and the capital Tehran.
On Tuesday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was concerned that Iran may have concealed "vital details" about its outbreak and urged all nations to "tell the truth about the coronavirus".
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Now Iranian dissident Shahin Gobadi, an opposition activist from the National Council of Resistance to Iran (NCRI) has amassed evidence which details how the spread of the virus was state sponsored.
He claims health minister Iraj Harirchi, supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Hassan Rouhani, and other regime leaders turned a blind eye, despite being aware of the spread of the virus to Iran at least one month ago.
Iranian citizens were hoodwinked into believing news reports about the deadly COVID-19 epidemic were mere propaganda,Gobadi says and the government kept up the pretence until it was too late to halt its spread.
He said the Iranian health minister actively set about trying to convince citizens reports about the spread of the virus were being used to stop people from turning up at the polls.
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He told Daily Star Online: "On the order of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, it resorted to a cover-up to ensure a high turnout for the anniversary of the 1979 revolution on February 11 and the sham parliamentary election on February 23.
"Meanwhile, the virus rapidly spread to different parts of Iran because people were kept in dark.
“It is quite evident that the clerical regime is covering up the real scope of this disease in Iran, has deliberately misled the public, and failed to take proper actions to deal with this growing threat that has become an epidemic.
“Lies, and deception, and cover-up are in the regime’s DNA."
In his public address on February 23, Iran's supreme leader Khamenei said: "In the last two days, the pretext of an illness and virus was used, and their media did not miss the slightest opportunity to discourage people from voting not even several hours."
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Then on Monday, Iran's deputy health minister Mr Harirchion could be seen sweating profusely as he denied covering up the scale of the outbreak – but has since tested positive for the killer virus.
Gobadi believes the real death toll could be much higher than official figures coming out of Iran and says it is more than 50 deaths and 3,000 infected.
He said some quarters of the Iranian government were urging for the truth to come out, including Ahmad Farhani, parliament deputy from the city of Qom.
Farhani said 50 people in Qom had died because of COVID-19 and listed the names of the deceased to officials.
He added that Iranian dissidents are now calling of doctors and nurses to out the truth about the full extent of the outbreak.
"The United Nations, World Health Organisation, and other international human rights organisations must compel the religious fascism ruling Iran to make public all the facts and figures regarding COVID-19 and provide them to relevant international organisations," he said.
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