Iranian leaders once predicted the coronavirus epidemic ravaging China would not affect their country. Now Iran has among the most coronavirus deaths outside China, and Iranian medical workers have been told to keep quiet.

A health inspector checking temperatures outside a mall in Tehran on Tuesday.

Nearly three dozen Iranian government officials and members of parliament are infected and a senior adviser to the supreme leader has died.

The Health Ministry has proposed sending 300,000 militia members door-to-door on a desperate mission to sanitize homes. The top prosecutor has warned that anyone hoarding face masks and other public health equipment risks the death penalty.

Iran’s leaders confidently predicted just two weeks ago that the coronavirus contagion ravaging China would not be a problem in their country. They even bragged of exporting face masks to their Chinese trading partners.

Now Iran is battered by coronavirus infections that have killed 77 people, among the most outside of China, officials said Tuesday. But instead of receiving government help, overwhelmed doctors and nurses say they have been warned by security forces to keep quiet. And some officials say Tehran’s hierarchy is understating the true extent of the outbreak — probably, experts contend, because it will be viewed as a failure that enemies will exploit.