Iran shutters newspaper after expert questions virus numbers

Iran has shut down a newspaper after it published remarks by an expert who said the official figures on coronavirus cases and deaths in the country account for only 5% of the real toll

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran shut down a newspaper on Monday after it published remarks by an expert who said the official figures on coronavirus cases and deaths in the country account for only 5% of the real toll, allegations rejected by the Health Ministry.

Mohammad Reza Sadi, the editor-in-chief of Jahane Sanat, told the official IRNA news agency that authorities closed his newspaper, which began publishing in 2004 and was mainly focused on business news.

“The administration resorted to secrecy for political and security reasons,” he said, and only provided “engineered statistics” to the public.

He also criticized testing efforts and warned of a renewed outbreak next month as universities hold entrance exams and people mark major Shiite holidays.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari rejected the allegations and said Mahboobfar had no role in the government’s anti-coronavirus campaign. IRNA quoted her as saying the ministry has provided figures in a “transparent” way.

“The Health Ministry is not a political body and health of people is its main priority,” she said.

The ministry has reported a total of nearly 330,000 cases and 18,616 deaths, including 189 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

Authorities in Iran have come under heavy criticism since the start of the pandemic because of their reluctance to impose the kind of sweeping restrictions seen elsewhere in the region. Iran is home to the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East.

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