The British Committee for Iran Freedom (BCFIF) is extremely alarmed over reports of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran. We note that reports and statements from the Iranian Resistance movement, the NCRI, from within the country which reveal that more than 1200 people have died in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.

This is fifteen times more than the official figure announced by the Iranian authorities after weeks of delay.

These reports also indicate that the regime knew about coronavirus outbreak in the country from the beginning but decided to cover up the truth in order to not negatively impact its parliamentary elections on 21 February and the celebration of the 41th anniversary of the 1979 revolution.

The authorities continue to downplay the situation and conceal important information. There are no comprehensive actions by the regime to contain the outbreak. In fact, authorities started an immediate crackdown on those who spoke out or reported about the real extent of the coronavirus outbreak and the high death toll in the country.

In a statement on 26 February, the Reporters Without Borders Organisation “condemned Iran's regime for concealing information about the coronavirus outbreak and the real number of the dead and infected patients” as well as its “persecution of media outlets and journalists publishing independent information.

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has now reached all of Iran’s 31 provinces as well as the prisons threatening the lives of political prisoners, dual citizens, including several British-Iranians, and thousands of people arrested during the recent protests, all of whom have been detained on bogus and arbitrary national security and espionage charges.

Today, doctors and nurses in Iran assisting those infected are working against the clock with limited resources and are facing regime’s unacceptable deception and threats.

The coronavirus epidemic in Iran exacerbated by the regime’s inaction and deception is now a threat not only to millions of Iranians but also to countries around the world. For example, several coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Europe last weeks where the infected individual had just returned from a visit to Iran.

The BCFIF welcomes the announcement of E3 (the UK, France and Germany) on 2 March to provide a comprehensive package of both material and financial support to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19 epidemic in Iran. We also join the E3 in expressing full solidarity with all impacted by COVID-19 in the country.

The UK Government and the other E3 members must now take all necessary measures to make sure that Iran’s regime accepts this help package and that it goes to the intended recipients, which are the Iranian people, and is not siphoned by factions affiliated or close to the state or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The BCFIF further notes the report of a technical team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) arriving in Tehran on Monday, 2 March, to help with the response in the country. The WHO's decision follows a call by the NCRI president-elect, Maryam Rajavi, last week.

The UK Government must publicly call on the regime and the Iranian authorities to fully cooperate with the WHO and its team on the ground, providing the team access to all necessary information and medical centres so that it can help the Iranian people fight the COVID-19 epidemic affecting the country.

Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool

British Committee for Iran Freedom

4 March 2020