Iran reported 162 coronavirus deaths on Monday, the highest one-day toll since the virus arrived in the country in February.
“This increase in numbers is in fact a reflection of our overall performance, both in terms of reopening and in compliance with health protocols,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said today at a news conference.
The Iranian government will make mask-wearing mandatory in certain areas this week. President Hassan Rouhani also announced that restrictive measures may be reimposed in high-risk provinces.
The Islamic Republic has reported over 220,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and suffered over 10,500 deaths, according to the WHO. It is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East. Still, officials within the country and abroad have accused Tehran of drastically under-reporting its real figures.
The news comes as the European Union considers which countries will be allowed to enter its borders when it reopens on July 1. Iran is not included on its draft list of countries with sufficient control over the spread of coronavirus.
Epicenter of Middle East
Iran emerged early on as an epicenter of coronavirus. While it shut down schools and canceled events in March, the Iranian government’s reluctance to restrict travel with China and implement effective social distancing measures led to a surge in cases. Meanwhile, the government also criticized US sanctions for preventing the import of medicine and inhibiting the country’s healthcare system.
Against the advice of health experts, the country allowed some businesses to reopen in April amid fears that efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus would lead to economic devastation. Cases continued to spike as domestic travel restrictions were lifted. In May, mosques reopened for the fasting month of Ramadan.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that “momentum and effort has waned among some of the people and authorities” to combat COVID-19. He warned that Iran’s economic woes would worsen if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked. This signals a break from the government’s initial attitude of trading public health for economic stability.
The global death count from coronavirus surpassed 500,000 on Sunday. Over 10 million cases have been confirmed worldwide.