One of Iran’s main business dailies has been shut down by authorities after it published an interview with a government physician who said the country was covering up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Jahan-e Sanat newspaper quoted Mohammadreza Mahboubfar, an epidemiologist on Iran’s national coronavirus task force, as saying the country’s virus figures “have certainly been engineered since the start of the outbreak.” The government, he added in the interview published on Aug. 9, “covered up” the first case of the disease “for political and security reasons.”

“I believe the numbers announced by the Health Ministry are 1/20th of the reality” of Iranians infected and dead, he said, according to the newspaper’s website So far, Iran has officially reported 328,844 cases and 18,616 deaths from the disease.

On Monday, the Media Supervisory Board of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued a warrant for the immediate suspension of Jahan-e Sanat following the publication of the interview, Mohammadreza Saadi, the managing editor of the newspaper, told state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. The doctor, Mahboubfar, appeared to be active on Twitter on Monday.

Iran has the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak and has seen a surge in cases and deaths since May, after the government eased lockdown restrictions in order to keep the economy afloat.

The BBC’s Persian news service reported last week that the number of virus fatalities in Iran may have been almost three times larger than official accounts.

Source » bloomberg