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Coronavirus: Iran reports nearly 100 deaths in one day from virus

New death toll tops a previous single-day jump in deaths reported on Friday by Iran
Iran's army said it will implement a nationwide crackdown to contain the continued spread of the coronavirus (AFP)

Iran recorded its highest number of deaths in one day from the coronavirus on Saturday as the country continues its battle against the disease. 

Kianoush Jahanpour, an Iranian health ministry official told a televised news conference in Tehran that it registered 97 new deaths, bringing the official death toll to 611 people. 

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No details were given on the location of the deaths or whether the deceased had underlying health conditions. 

"1,365 fresh cases have been added to the number of confirmed infections in the past 24 hours," said Jahanpour, bringing Iran's case number to 12,729 for the coronavirus. 

The health official said that more than 4,300 cases with confirmed infections had recovered so far.

"Naturally, the number of confirmed cases will increase" even more as Iran steps up its laboratory sampling and tests, Jahanpour said.

Nationwide lockdown

The armed forces chief said Friday the country's security forces had been ordered to clear the streets nationwide within 24 hours in a bid to stop the virus spreading further.

A newly formed commission will be charged with overseeing the "emptying of shops, streets and roads" as part of a nationwide decision to be implemented within the next 24 hours, Major General Mohammad Bagheri said in televised remarks.

The scale of the situation led Iran's Central Bank to formally request the International Monetary Fund for a $5bn loan to fight the disease. 

Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani confirmed that the Covid-19 coronavirus had affected almost all of Iran's provinces. 

Tehran province had the highest number of new cases with 347, followed by Isfahan with 155 and the northern region of Alborz with 134.

Several Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have been infected, with some dying from the illness.

The latest high-profile suspected case of infection was Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign policy.

On Thursday, it was reported by the Washington Post that satellite imagery showed mass graves being prepared near the holy city of Qom, the centre of the outbreak in the country.

According to the report, since 21 February, two trenches - each around 90 metres long - have been dug at the Behesht-e Masoumeh cemetery in the city.

The report said that a combination of expert analysis and official statements suggested that the graves had been dug to accommodate the rising death toll from the virus in Iran.