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Iran Closes Paper Reporting Doubts on Pandemic Data

Iranian authorities have shut down a business newspaper that published remarks by an expert expressing doubts about official government coronavirus data. The newspaper, Jahan-e Sanat, carried an interview on Sunday with Mohammadreza Mahboubfar, identified as a former member of the country’s national coronavirus taskforce, and quoted him as saying: “The figures announced by the officials on coronavirus cases and deaths account for only 5% of the country’s real tolls.” On Monday, the editor in chief, Mohammadreza Saadi, told the state news agency IRNA that the paper had been shut down because of the interview. Mahboubfar, an epidemiologist, was also quoted as saying that authorities knew about the presence of coronavirus in the country as early as January although health officials announced the first infections only on February 19 when they announced the first two deaths. Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for Iran’s Health Ministry, denied Mahboubfar’s claims and said he was not a member of the taskforce, although it was unclear whether she meant he had never been a member. As of Monday, official statistics in Iran reported a total of 328,844 cases since the outbreak in the country, and 18,616 deaths, 189 in the previous 24 hours.