Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Sunday that mosques would reopen across large parts of the country Monday, as officials reported a drop in the number of deaths from the novel coronavirus, AFP reports.

Rouhani said that 132 counties, around one third of the country's administrative divisions, would "reopen their mosques as of tomorrow".

"Social distancing is more important than collective prayer," he said in a televised meeting of the country's virus taskforce.

The president argued that Islam considers safety obligatory, while praying in mosques is only "recommended".

Rouhani did not give the names of the counties affected by the measure or the number of mosques due to reopen on Monday.

The measure is not expected to be implemented in the capital, Tehran, or in the main Shiite holy cities of Mashhad which are among those most affected by the outbreak.

His remarks came after Iranian health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 47 people died of the virus over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily count in 55 days.

He told a news conference he hoped "the trend will continue in the upcoming days".

Iran reported its first case of coronavirus in February 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.

Mosques and some key Shiite shrines in Iran were closed in March due to the outbreak.