Iran's coronavirus death toll approaches 7,000

Iran registers 51 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing its total to 6,988.

Ben Ariel ,

Coronavirus test swab
Coronavirus test swab

Iran said on Sunday that it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday, according to the AFP news agency.

The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the city of Qom in February.

Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan".

"Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added.

The southwestern province has become Iran's new coronavirus focal point. Last week, the region was placed under lockdown for a second time to prevent the spread of coronavirus, after locals failed to observe social distancing rules.

This came after Iran eased some of its lockdown measures, permitting mosques to reopen in 132 counties, around one third of the country's administrative divisions.

Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry's latest report said there is a "rising trend or the beginning of a peak" in eight provinces, including Khuzestan.

The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month.

Iran announced its first cases of COVID-19 on February 19 and for a time was the hardest hit country in the Middle East from the pandemic.

At least 31 members of the Iranian parliament contracted the virus, including its speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for COVID-19.

High-profile deaths in Iran from the coronavirus include a member of the council advising the Ayatollah, a former ambassador, a newly-elected member of parliament, an adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and a re-elected member of parliament.

A top adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, was also reported to have been infected with the virus.