In view of the imminent advance of the coronavirus outbreak, in the last 24 hours the Iranian Ministry of Health reported an increase in the number of confirmed deaths, which would have risen from 21 to 145 until today, Saturday.

According to Reuters, the number of alleged reported infections has also increased from 1,000 to 5,823, according to an official of that entity reported in a televised conference today.

The epidemic in the country has been spreading since the Health Ministry announced the first cases of infection on the eve of the parliamentary elections on Feb. 21, reported the French edition of the Middle East Eye news portal.

The Middle East Eye has also indicated that the government is losing considerable credibility, especially after an attempt was made to hide information related to the downing of the Ukrainian plane last January, leading to increased anxiety about the real scale of the epidemic in the country amid the alarm about the outbreak.

Since the government’s announcement, officials have been reporting on the number of people infected after parliamentarian Ahmad Amirabadi announced that the first case associated with the COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Qom, southwest of the capital Tehran.

In the third most heavily infected country, it has also been reported that so far 8% of the parliament has been infected with the virus, many of the high-ranking officials are even members of the president’s Cabinet, and even among the affected figures is the chief adviser to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Critics of the government have spoken out against the situation, pointing out that the revelation of the virus’s presence in the country came just before the election to scare citizens away from the ballot box, the Middle East Eye said.

Others claimed otherwise, blaming the government for being fully aware of the presence of the virus outbreak in the country, but at the same time refraining from announcing the actual numbers in the news so that there would be a strong turnout.

One of the main opposition groups to the government, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), on its website, accused the government of covering up the advance of the virus for weeks without even establishing an official quarantine.

Congressman Mohammad Reza Najafi, quoted by NCRI, said, “Not quarantining Qom has unfortunately left devastating results. … This important matter (quarantine) seems inevitable in Tehran as well due to the expansion of the disease and the upcoming holidays. It is not hard to imagine that negligence will lead to irreparable consequences.”

NCRI also alleges that from Imam Hossein hospital in Tehran, 15 to 20 deaths have been reported daily due to the coronavirus, while in Rasht, capital of Guilan Province in northwestern Iran, the dead are being buried in mass graves at night.

According to the information provided by Business Insider, as a contingency measure Iran has decided to temporarily release 54,000 inmates from crowded prisons.

The World Health Organization reported in February that 80% of the cases of COVID-19 had only mild flu-like symptoms, and only 2% of the cases had resulted in death.

While experts have noted that the death rate of the virus is much lower than that of similar epidemics such as SARS or MMR, its range of spread is much greater.