Iranian state TV said Wednesday that 239 people had died of covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, a figure attributed to Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari. The toll surpassed the previous record of daily deaths, 235, reached on Monday and on July 28. Iran also reported more than 4,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday.
While many countries have been hitting new highs in infections as testing becomes more widespread, the situation in Iran is particularly worrying given the increase in deaths and reports of overstretched hospitals.
Overall, since February, Iran has officially reported 27,658 fatalities, a number that is considered an undercount. Iran’s authoritarian theocracy restricts reporting on infections and fatalities, as well as hospital and other related medical shortages. Nonetheless, reports by doctors and families, as well as local and international media, have documented serious outbreaks and discrepancies in official statements.
Iran’s government has blamed the spikes in cases and deaths on the public’s lack of adherence to virus restrictions. As of Monday, 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces were classified as “red zones,” the highest alert level.
About 10 percent of Iran’s 80 million people live in the capital, Tehran, which has recorded about half of the recent fatalities. Starting Saturday, masks will be required while outdoors in Tehran. Since July, face coverings have been mandatory while inside public places nationwide.
Before the pandemic, Iran was already beset by high unemployment, inflation and medical shortages, in part because of U.S. economic sanctions.