Iran's Official Covid-19 Infected Rises To Nearly 600 As US Slightly Eases Sanctions

A nationwide lock-down in Iran continues, or we could say at this point merely that the Iranian Health Ministry is urging people to stay home, after Friday prayers were canceled in 23 cities across the nation, and as the official death toll acknowledged by Tehran has risen to 43, with total number of infected jumping to 593

This after on Friday a team of journalists working for BBC Persia said they had confirmed at least 210 virus-linked deaths in Iran after canvassing workers at dozens of hospitals around the country, further suggesting a cover-up on a massive scale in the works.

Other reports poking holes in Iran's downplayed official coronavirus narrative suggest the number of total infected could be as high as 18,000, such as this bombshell Daily Beast report. Iran has firmly denied that it's withholding information, and it also may be due to lack of widespread testing, among other reports the elite IRGC is cracking down on doctors, saying to keep their mouths shut. 

Image source: AFP

Tellingly, at least seven high government officials were reported infected this week, including the vice president, as well as a well-known former ambassador to the Vatican and Egypt, who died of the disease.

Reports on Saturday suggested that number has grown to at least 8, after it was reported overnight that an Iranian member of parliament, Mohammad Ali Ramazani, had also died of Covid-19.

However, the Iranians are now vehemently denying his death or that he was ever confirmed with the infection, according to The Independent

Regardless, The Independent reports further that the situation remains dire, also as governments in the gulf region struggle to prevent Iranians or anyone who's been traveling in Iran from entering their borders:

It came as a health ministry spokesman said the new coronavirus had killed 43 people in the Islamic Republic, with 593 confirmed cases.

“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours,” Kianush Jahanpur told state TV. “The death toll is 43 now.

“The new confirmed infected cases since yesterday is 205 that makes the total number of confirmed infected people 593.” 

Currently, schools remain closed nationwide until at least Tuesday, with a further ban on mass gatherings such as concerts and sporting events for the next week. 

Meanwhile, a number of reports have analyzed the impact of US sanctions on Iran's coronavirus crisis - the hardest hit country outside of China. The National Interest reported that the White House has responded to this criticism. 

"The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia," according to the report.

Iranian leaders have blamed Washington for the worsening crisis, given the limited ability to import virus testing kits and equipment and medicines. 

"The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019," The National Interest said further.