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Iran's coronavirus death toll exceeds 24,000, says health ministry

Health specialist says roughly half of all coronavirus patients being treated in Iran's intensive care units are dying
An Iranian woman stands next to a street bin urging people to follow anti-coronavirus health protocols in Tehran (AFP)

Iran's coronavirus death toll has topped 24,000, the health ministry announced on Saturday.

Around half of all coronavirus patients being treated in Iran's intensive care units are dying, a government health specialist said. The death toll among those on ventilators is 90 percent.

"In all, 10 percent to 12 percent of hospitalised patients are losing their lives," Masoud Mardani, a specialist of infectious diseases and a member of the government coronavirus task force, told the semi-official ISNA news agency.

He was speaking on Saturday as the health ministry said the country's coronavirus death toll had risen by 166 to 24,118.

Payam Tabarsi, head of infectious diseases at Tehran's Masih Daneshvari Hospital, said the number of emergency room patients being admitted at his facility had jumped over the past week from 68 a day to 200.

"People are queuing to be admitted," he was cited by ISNA as saying.

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If the trend continues, deaths from coronavirus could reach 600 a day within weeks, he said.

Iran's total number of confirmed cases in the last 24 hours spiked by 2,845 to 419,043, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that a 20 percent decline in public adherence to health protocols had contributed to the spike in infections.

"Today, the health ministry gave a worrying report. The public's observance, which was 82 percent in earlier weeks, has fallen to 62 percent," Rouhani said in remarks broadcast live on state television.

He said the ministry report showed a recurrence of infection among former patients.

Tabarsi called on authorities to limit school attendance to online classes, saying that in the last few days several students and teachers had been infected.

Schools re-opened on 5 September for 15 million students after a seven-month closure despite concerns over increased spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Last month, more than one million students sat for a four-day nationwide university entrance exam despite calls for a postponement. Rouhani said no student had tested positive for the virus following the exams.