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Coronavirus: Iran posts highest death rate so far as cases continue to climb (www.thenational.ae)

Iran said a record 229 people died in the past 24 hours from its outbreak of the coronavirus, health ministry figures showed on Tuesday.

Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, began relaxing its lockdown in mid-April, at least partly to boost an economy battered by US sanctions.

The Islamic republic has recorded a total of 14,634 deaths from the coronavirus, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV, adding that there have been 278,827 infections and 242,351 recoveries.

The previous record of deaths from the new coronavirus in a 24-hour period was on July 9, when health ministry figures showed 221 people had died.

While the official number of cases is in the tens of thousands, President Hassan Rouhani said last week that as many as 25 million Iranians may have had the contagion.

“Our estimate is that, so far, 25 million Iranians have been infected with this virus and about 14,000 have lost their lives,” Mr Rouhani said.

Hospitals in Iran face acute shortages of medical personnel and beds as the country tackles a powerful second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, a senior official with Tehran’s anti-coronavirus task force, Reza Jalili-Khoshnood, said last week.

His comments contrasted with Mr Rouhani’s regular assurances that Iran has sufficient supplies of medical personnel and facilities.

He and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, are now regularly shown on state media wearing a mask, a means of encouraging ordinary Iranians to also use masks more frequently.

The surge in cases led authorities on Saturday to reimpose restrictions for a week in Tehran, including banning religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.

From Sunday, 22 cities and towns in the southwestern Khuzestan province were under a three-day lockdown.

Updated: July 21, 2020 04:44 PM

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