TEHRAN — Iran on Wednesday reported 63 new deaths from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day toll since it announced the first deaths from the outbreak.
“Based on new lab results, we have identified 958 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 9,000,” health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference.
“Unfortunately in the past 24 hours, we have had reports of 63 deaths and overall 354 have lost their lives” to the virus, he added.
The outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran is one of the deadliest outside China, where the disease originated.
The capital Tehran had the most new infections with 256 cases. The central province of Isfahan followed with 170, and Semnan, to the east of Tehran, had 63. Bushehr as well as Kohgiluyeh and Boyerahmad in the southwest had no new cases.
Iran is yet to officially impose quarantines but authorities have repeatedly called on people to refrain from traveling.
They have closed schools and universities and resorted to shutting hotels and other tourist accommodation to discourage travel.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard says at least five of its members are infected and an unspecified number of the Guard’s volunteer Basij force.
Iran’s supreme leader said Tuesday that the Islamic Republic will recognize doctors and nurses who die combating the new coronavirus as “martyrs” like slain soldiers.
The decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comes amid a propaganda campaign already trying to link the fight against the virus to Iran’s long, bloody 1980s war with Iraq. The rising casualty figures each day in Iran suggest the fight against the new coronavirus is far from over.
That the Guard is involved in the relief effort of a major catastrophe is not surprising in Iran. The Guard, whose forces include an estimated 125,000-plus troops and 600,000 mission-ready volunteers, routinely respond to the earthquakes that shake the country. Recent floods saw its troops mobilize as well.
Its forces, which include virologists, faced chemical weapons during Iran’s eight-year war against Iraq.