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Iran records highest daily death toll from coronavirus

Health ministry reports 162 deaths on Monday, exceeding previous record from 4 April, when 158 deaths were announced
Iranian women, mostly wearing face masks, are pictured inside a bus in the capital Tehran on 16 June amid the coronavirus pandemic (AFP/File photo)

Iran recorded its highest number of daily deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, amid signs of a resurgence of the disease following an easing of lockdown measures.

Statistics provided by the country's health ministry showed that over the last 24 hours at least 162 people died from Covid-19, the highest number since 4 April when the ministry reported 158 deaths in a single day.

After implementing lockdown and curfew measures to combat the outbreak, Iran saw death rates and the number of new cases decline in early May.

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However, despite warnings from some public health officials of a second wave, Iran began lifting measures later that month and chose to reopen public and commercial life.

"This increase in numbers is in fact a reflection of our overall performance, both in terms of reopening and in compliance with health protocols," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said at a news conference on Monday.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, expressed concern over the rising number of deaths over the weekend, saying the "momentum and effort has waned among some of the people and authorities" to combat the disease.

Iran is the worst infected country in the Middle East with 225,205 infections, including 186,180 recoveries and 10,670 deaths.

Face mask campaign

On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said masks would become mandatory in certain gathering places starting from 5 July following the sharp increase in infections and deaths.

According to his official website, the government will assess whether to extend the policy on 22 July. Senior officials cautioned that restrictions will be reimposed if health regulations to contain infections were not observed.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi pleaded with citizens, especially young Iranians, to take the disease seriously.

"In our country, every 33 seconds, one person is infected with the coronavirus, and every 13 minutes, one person dies from it," he said.

"I desperately - and in a friendly way - plead with people to cooperate in observing medical protocols for their own sake and that of others," Harirchi said.