In Brief

Coronavirus cover-up: satellite images reveal mass graves in Iran

Newly released aerial photos fuel fears that Tehran is covering up extent of outbreak

Mass graves large enough to be seen have space have been dug near the epicentre of Iran’s coronavirus epidemic - fuelling fears that the authorities are covering up the true extent of the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

Satellite images first published in the The New York Times show two trenches with a total length of about 100 metres that have been excavated in the past three weeks in a cemetery in the city of Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran. 

“According to expert analysis, video testimony and official statements, the graves were dug to accommodate the rising number of virus victims in Qom,” reports The Washington Post.

The images “confirm the worst fears about the extent of the epidemic and the government’s subsequent cover-up” , adds The Guardian. Iran has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the virus, which causes Covid-19 disease, with a total of 10,075 cases and 429 deaths confirmed by the authorities as of Friday morning.

But many believe the true numbers may be far higher.

Opposition politicians claim that as many as 3,300 Iranians have died after becoming infected, with many “collapsing in the streets”, The Times reports.

Last month, at the time the trenches were being dug, a legislator from Qom said there had been 50 coronavirus deaths in the city, while the government was claiming that only 12 people had died nationwide.

The nation’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, held a press conference to “categorically deny” allegations that the regime was lying about the extent of the outbreak.

However, he was “clearly sweating and coughing”, and confirmed the following day that he had tested positive, says The Guardian.

Amir Afkhami, author of A Modern Contagion, a history of Iran’s experience of cholera epidemics, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that they are now trying to create mass graves and trying to hide the actual extent of the impact of the disease.”

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