(Reuters) - Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen to nearly 10,000 with 133 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, extending a reversal from a steady fall in daily numbers as the country has relaxed its lockdown.
There were 2,531 new coronavirus infections reported in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of cases to 212,501, along with 9,996 deaths in all, the ministry said on Wednesday.
The daily death toll has regularly topped 100 in the past week for the first time in two months, mirroring a sharp rise in new infections since restrictions on movement began to be lifted in mid-April.
Senior officials have regularly warned that restrictions will be reimposed if health regulations such as social distancing to stem the surge in infections are not observed.
In a sign of such concern, the Islamic Republic’s official IRNA news agency said on Tuesday that the main Friday prayer gathering would not resume in the capital Tehran this week despite an announcement last week that it would.
State television aired footage of a hospital coronavirus ward on Wednesday showing a patient coughing and a nurse warning Iranians to take necessary precautions.
On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani said the government was considering making it mandatory within days to wear masks in public places and covered spaces given the surge in the number of confirmed infections.
Iran has been the Middle East country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones