Iran reports 2,102 new virus cases, highest in over month
Iranians, wearing protective face masks and gloves without observing social distancing, walk in the streets of the capital Tehran. AFP
Iran on Friday reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections in more than a month as it warned of clusters hitting new regions.
The Islamic republic has struggled to contain the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease since its first cases emerged in mid-February. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 2,102 new cases were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall total to 116,635.
That figure is the highest Iran has announced for a single day since April 6. Jahanpour said the virus had claimed another 48 lives over the same period, raising the overall death toll to 6,902. The southwestern province of Khuzestan remained "red" -- the top level of Iran's colour-coded risk scale.
Several more provinces could be added to that level of alert, he said. "Other provinces that we may see rising infections in are Lorestan, Sistan and Baluchistan, and East Azerbaijan," Jahanpour said in televised remarks.
The spokesman issued what he called a "warning" to residents of the provinces to observe health protocols. Lorestan lies in western Iran, East Azerbaijan in the northwest, and Sistan and Baluchistan in the southeast bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Schools to reopen partially
Jahanpour had said on Thursday that North Khorasan province in the northeast may also be close to "critical condition". Khuzestan is the only province so far where authorities have reimposed stringent measures like shutting businesses after a countrywide relaxation in April.
Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month. A spokesman for the province's virus taskforce, Reza Nejati, said Thursday schools would not reopen in Khuzestan later this week, ISNA news agency reported.
Iran closed schools in early March along with universities and public places including cinemas to contain the virus. But it announced last week that schools would partially reopen as of Saturday with only teachers present as students' attendance is not mandatory.
The government also reopened mosques on Wednesday for three nights so that worshippers can pray during one of the holiest times of the year for Muslims. The reopening was granted for Laylat al-Qadr -- a high point during the fasting month of Ramadan that marks when the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.
Of those hospitalised with COVID-19 nationwide since the first cases announced in the Shiite holy city of Qom on February 19, 91,836 have recovered and been discharged, according to the health ministry. Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.