Iran, grappling with its most severe surge of the coronavirus to date, reported more new infections and deaths across the country on Sunday than on any other single day since the pandemic began.
Health authorities logged over 39,600 new cases and 542 deaths from the virus. The fatality count shatters the previous record set during Iran’s deadliest coronavirus surge that gripped the country last November, signaling the current wave will likely only get worse.
The new all-time highs push Iran’s total number of infections over 4.1 million and death toll over 94,000 — the highest in the Middle East.
Iranian health officials have acknowledged that the Islamic Republic’s COVID-19 figures underestimate the real toll.
COVID-19 infections have been surging in Iran since late June, in what officials have warned is a “fifth wave” caused by the highly infectious Delta variant.
Daily infections have hit several records over the past few weeks.
The previous recorded high for fatalities was 496, registered on April 26, at the height of the Islamic Republic’s previous wave.
Iran’s state television said hospitals across the country were facing a “crisis” and described the health situation as bleak.
“Although the vaccination pace has been accelerating, the observation of health protocols has dropped significantly,” it said.
Iran has pinned its hopes on vaccinations to help with the health crisis.
But the inoculation campaign launched in February has progressed more slowly than authorities had planned.
Choked by US sanctions that have made it difficult to transfer money abroad, Iran says it is struggling to import vaccines for its 83 million population.
The health ministry said on Sunday that more than 12.5 million people have been given a first vaccine dose. But only 3.3% of the total population have been fully vaccinated, according to data compiled from government sources by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday that a “plan to transform the way to confront the coronavirus” was to be reviewed next week. He did not give any details.
Chairing a COVID taskforce meeting, he also vowed to “support domestic vaccine production” while “not hesitating” to import jabs from abroad.
The authorities have approved the emergency use of two locally produced vaccines, with the only mass-produced one, COVIran Barekat, still in short supply.
The crush of new cases, fueled by the fast-spreading Delta variant, have overwhelmed hospitals with patients too numerous to handle. The country has never seen so many COVID-19 patients in critical condition, with 6,462 more severe cases reported Sunday.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, last week ordered officials to discuss the possibility of a total national shutdown. The government has been loath to enforce such a lockdown, fearing the damage it would do to an economy reeling from years of American sanctions.