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Coronavirus: Iran hits record daily death toll, true count 'could be three times higher'

As Tehran faces two-week lockdown, new curbs to be imposed in most of country as total death toll hits 35,298
Iranians on their way to shop in Tajrish Square, Tehran, pass a sign advising people to wear masks (AFP)

Iran's coronavirus daily death toll has hit a new record, with a medical council saying the true number of deaths is likely even higher than the officially reported figures.

The health ministry announced that the country's daily tally of deaths had hit a record high of 434 on Sunday, taking the official toll to 35,298 in the Middle East's worst-hit country.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 7,719 to 620,491.

However, the head of Iran's Medical Council, Mohammadreza Zafarghandi, doubted the accuracy of the official toll and warned that the actual toll was at least three times higher than the official count.

He said the country had reached a "catastrophic mortality rate," the Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday.

'Through field surveys in hospitals and cemeteries, our Council has obtained a figure at least three times higher than the official death toll'

- Mohammadreza Zafarghandi, Iran Medical Council

"The official death toll is only based on the number of registered patients," Zafarghandi told ISNA.

"Through field surveys in hospitals and cemeteries, our council has obtained a figure at least three times higher than the official death toll."

The medical council is a non-governmental organisation that is responsible for licensing doctors in Iran.

"Thousands of our health workers were infected with the virus, and according to our statistics 300 of them have died," Zafarghandi said.

A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre in April suggested that the coronavirus toll might be almost twice as high as announced by the health ministry.

To stem a third wave of the virus in Iran, the government has shut schools, mosques, shops and restaurants in most of the country. President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday new restrictions will take effect on Wednesday in 25 of Iran's 31 provinces for 10 days.

Measures are tighter in the capital, where authorities on Monday will decide whether to impose a complete lockdown for two weeks, state TV reported.

The interior ministry said a four-day ban on travel in and out of 25 cities, including Tehran, will be imposed from Monday, state media reported.