When the COVID-19 outbreak first appeared in Iran on Feb. 19, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed it a hoax, a conspiracy from the country’s enemies.
There were reports the regime tried to cover up the number of fatalities, until cellphone videos appeared that showed bodies being hurriedly buried in a graveyard in the northern city of Qom by workers wearing masks and hazmat suits.
When President Hassan Rouhani finally acknowledged the outbreak on Feb. 26, he said it did not warrant a mass quarantine.
Iranian-American journalist Borzou Daragahi, who covers Iran for the Independent in the U.K., said the regime flips back and forth between two explanations for the outbreak.
“One is it was propaganda … to besmirch Iran and China. And the other is that it’s some sort of bio-weapon, and you hear that from loonies on all sides around the world, including in Iran.”