Iran is now the epicentre of the coronavirus in the Middle East. Confirmation of this comes amid dozens of publicly known cases and multiple deaths. “We think that this virus has been in Iran for the past three to four weeks and has circulated throughout the country. Right now in Iran we are facing a coronavirus epidemic,” said a senior medical doctor at the Masih Daneshvari hospital in Tehran, the country’s top pulmonary public hospital and the main facility overseeing coronavirus patients.
Afghanistan, Georgia, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Oman have reported their first cases of coronavirus, all linked to passengers traveling from Iran.
Iran has so far reported a total of 245 cases and 26 deaths, a far higher fatality rate than seen elsewhere. The doctor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the official tally vastly underestimates the true number of cases. “We didn’t have a way to test people earlier and don’t have the capacity to screen everyone,” he said, in a telephone interview with TIME. “Let me put it this way, if in general two out of 100 corona patients die, in Iran, if we now have 20 deaths that means we have 1,000 infected patients.”
The global death toll from the flu-like virus has surpassed 2,700.