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Coronavirus: Iran reports highest death toll in one day

The Iranian health ministry reported 54 deaths in 24 hours, as recorded cases in the country surpass 8,000
An Iranian medic treats a patient infected with the COVID-19 virus at a hospital in Tehran on 1 March 2020 (AFP)

Iran reported on Tuesday that 54 people had died after contracting coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day toll since the start of the outbreak in February.

The new deaths bring the official number of those killed by the virus - known officially as COVID-19 - in the Islamic republic to 291, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised conference.

He added that 881 new cases had been confirmed, taking the total recorded infection tally to 8,042.

As of Tuesday, Iran is the third worst infected country in the world after China and Italy.

The outbreak has prompted authorities to temporarily release around 70,000 prisoners to contain the spread of the illness.

Coronavirus spread swiftly in Iran and became one of the deadliest outbreaks outside China's Hubei province, where the virus originated in the city of Wuhan.

Iranian officials are concerned about the spread of the virus during the national Nowruz holiday on 20 March, when Iranians celebrate the new year.

On Sunday, IranAir announced the suspension of all its flights to Europe until further notice, a decision apparently linked to a ban on the carrier's planes from entering European airspace.

The novel virus has taken the lives of several senior Iranian officials and lawmakers.