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Coronavirus: Iran records jump of 1,000 new cases as 63 die in 24 hours

Number of total infections rises to 9,000 with 354 deaths, by far the largest total in the Middle East
Iranian firefighters disinfect streets and alleys in southern Tehran to halt the wild spread of coronavirus on 11 March, 2020 (AFP)

Iran has now recorded around 9,000 coronavirus cases in the country, nearly a thousand more cases in one day, Kianush Jahanpur, a health ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has reached 354, a rise of 63 in the past 24 hours, Jahanpur told state TV.

Wednesday's tally is the highest single-day toll since the start of the outbreak in February. 

Jahanpur added that 2,959 patients have fully recovered, and called on Iranians to avoid unnecessary trips and stay at home.

Iran is now the worst infected country in the Middle East and the third worldwide, following China and Italy. 

The capital Tehran recorded the most new infections with 256 cases, followed by the central province of Isfahan with 170 cases. 

The outbreak in the Islamic Republic has prompted authorities to temporarily release around 70,000 prisoners to contain the spread of the illness, which has now spread to all Iranian cities. 

Those released did not include political prisoners, however. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said on Tuesday that he had asked the country to release all prisoners temporarily, saying that it is "unfortunate and disturbing" to have political prisoners detained amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"A number of dual and foreign nationals are at real risk if they have not...got it (coronavirus) they are really fearful of the conditions," Javaid Rehman told journalists in Geneva.

"This is also my worrying concern and therefore I have recommended to the state of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release all prisoners on temporary release," he said.

Coronavirus spread swiftly in Iran and became one of the deadliest outbreaks outside China's Hubei province, where the virus originated in the city of Wuhan.

Iranian officials are concerned about the spread of the virus during the national Nowruz holiday on 20 March, when Iranians celebrate the new year.

On Sunday, IranAir announced the suspension of all its flights to Europe until further notice, a decision apparently linked to a ban on the carrier's planes from entering European airspace.

The novel virus has taken the lives of several senior Iranian officials and lawmakers.