A police officer and pedestrians wearing masks on a street (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)
Coronavirus has struck in at least five Iranian cities, including the capital, Tehran, where some residents wear masks in public on February 23. (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)

Iran’s regime has again mishandled a national crisis, dismissing the new coronavirus as “propaganda,” downplaying the disease’s toll on the country and failing to take adequate steps to stop its spread.

“I think the performance of the [Iranian regime’s] administration in controlling the virus has not been successful,” Iranian lawmaker Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani told reporters in February. “So far, I have not seen any particular action to confront corona by the administration.”

Farahani’s concern comes after the regime failed to acknowledge that the coronavirus was devastating his community. Farahani said February 24 that 50 people in the city of Qom had died of the disease (COVID-19) and 250 others were quarantined there. Yet, at the time, the regime said the disease had killed only a dozen people nationwide.

The regime has since upped the death toll to 124 and acknowledged that more than 4,747 people have been infected, The Associated Press reported March 6.

Photo of Pompeo gesturing, quote about need for truth and cooperation about COVID-19 (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)

Nonetheless, the United States is prepared to use its new humanitarian channel, developed with the Swiss government, to help the Iranian people stave off the virus. The United States has “extended offers to help the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we hope that the Government of Iran will heed our offers of humanitarian assistance and medical supplies,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo told reporters March 5.

Weeks into the crisis, the regime has begun taking some steps to limit the spreading virus. The regime has recently cancelled weekly Friday prayer sessions, Radio Farda reports. Risk of spreading the disease in advance of Nowruz, the Persian new year, later this month could significantly damage the country’s tourism industry.

News reports strongly back the Iranian lawmaker’s assertion that the regime flubbed its initial coronavirus response. Countries ranging from Lebanon to Oman to Canada have all reported coronavirus patients who had recently returned from Iran, according to media reports. The AP has reported that Iran’s mortality rate for coronavirus patients is the highest of any country.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei initially called fears of coronavirus “propaganda,” circulated by the regime’s enemies. Khamenei blamed the “negative propaganda” for driving down voter turnout in the February 21 parliamentary election, Reuters says.

And the head of the regime’s counter-coronavirus task force, Iraj Harirchi, also downplayed the risks of COVID-19, before acknowledging on February 25 that he is infected.

Misleading everyday Iranians continues the regime’s pattern of putting its image over its people. In January, Iran’s leaders denied shooting down a passenger airplane, killing everyone on board, until evidence showed otherwise. And in November, the regime blacked out the internet to hide its violent crackdown on citizen protests against widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Women wearing surgical masks (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)
Commuters riding a bus in downtown Tehran, Iran, wear masks to protect against the new coronavirus on February 23. (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)