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Coronavirus: Iran reports one death from Covid-19 every five minutes

Authorities blame poor social distancing as deputy health minister warns daily death rate could double in coming weeks
Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus figures (AFP)

Hospitals in many Iranian provinces are running out of capacity to handle coronavirus cases, health authorities say, with the pandemic now killing around 300 people a day, or one person every five minutes.

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Authorities have complained of poor social distancing, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said the pandemic could cause 600 daily deaths in coming weeks if Iranians failed to respect health protocols in the Middle East country hardest hit by the virus.

A caption on state television news said that an Iranian was dying of novel coronavirus every five minutes, a rate that corresponded to the daily death tallies reported by the authorities of just above or below 300 over the past 20 days.

Health ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Sunday that 32,616 people had died of the disease and that the number of confirmed cases had reached 568,896.

Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. 

A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre in April suggested that actual coronavirus figures might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

The report said that Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronavirus.

'Incompetent and deadly governance'

Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran have been closed since 3 October. 

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As Covid-19 cases and deaths continued to hit record levels, the closure was extended until 20 November, state TV reported.

Officials said "extreme measures and limitations" would be imposed in at least 43 counties across the country for one week, where the infection rates had been alarming. 

State TV reported that 21 out of Iran's 31 provinces were on a coronavirus red alert.

Iran has blamed US sanctions for hampering Tehran's efforts to tackle the outbreak, Reuters reported. 

Washington, accusing Tehran of "incompetent and deadly governance", has refused to lift sanctions that were reimposed after 2018 when US President Donald Trump exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers.