DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Health Ministry said on Monday nearly the whole country was on a coronavirus red alert as cases and deaths rose to record levels, with a member of the state task force’s warning field hospitals might be needed if people flout the rules.
Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television that 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces were “red” zones, the highest alert level, while four were at the next “orange” level.
Authorities registered a record high 3,902 new cases in the past 24 hours, with the total number of identified cases in the worst-hit country in the Middle East rising to 475,674, Lari said.
She said 235 patients had died in the past 24 hours, equalling a daily death toll high set on July 28, bringing the total death toll to 27,192.
Officials have complained that many have defied regulations to wear face masks and some families used lockdowns to go on trips, helping spread the virus with hospitals nearly full.
“If people keep going on weekend trips…, our patients might have to go to field hospitals,” Masoud Mardani, a member of the state coronavirus task force, told Khabaronline website.
On Saturday, schools, libraries, mosques and other public institutions in the capital Tehran closed for a week as part of measures to stem the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
Similar closures have been also imposed in Zanjan province, northwest of Tehran, and cities in several other provinces, shutting museums, theatres, gyms, cafes and hair salons, state media said.
Because of coronavirus concerns, Iran has banned flights to Iraq to block trips by Iranians to the neighbouring country for the annual pilgrimage of Arbaeen, which draws large crowds. Land borders to Iraq have also been closed.
After stopping flights to Turkey, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said on Monday one flight per day would be allowed in each direction.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alison Williams
FILE PHOTO: A student wearing a protective face mask and shield to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) enters Al-Mahdi School with his mother in Tehran, Iran September 5, 2020. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS