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Iran continues streak of record daily coronavirus infections

Islamic Republic struggles to contain renewed surge as hospitals overflow, confirming over 5,000 new cases and 322 new deaths

People wear protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in downtown Tehran, Iran, October 11, 2020. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
People wear protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in downtown Tehran, Iran, October 11, 2020. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Tuesday reported its highest single-day toll of new confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 5,000 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with a surge in transmission.

Iran’s health ministry also reported that 322 people had died from the COVID-19, pushing the death toll over 31,000. The new infection count on Tuesday eclipsed the previous high of 4,830 last week, shining a light on the nation’s floundering efforts to combat the virus.

Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks. Monday’s death toll shattered its previous single-day record, prompting state news outlets to declare it a “black day.”

Hospitals in the hard-hit capital of Tehran are overflowing. Last week, health officials announced that the city had run out of intensive care beds for virus patients.

Also on Tuesday, Hamidreza Azizi, deputy head of Iran’s nurses’ organization, announced that 31,000 nurses have been infected with the coronavirus in the country, with 6,000 currently sick and staying home from work and 54 confirmed dead, according to state-run IRNA news agency.

He said the organization would deploy over 7,600 more nurses to compensate for dire staff shortages across the country’s hospitals. Such official tolls are widely considered to understate the true dimensions of the outbreak among medical staff and nationwide.

The increase comes after Iranians packed cafes and restaurants at vacation spots during recent national holidays, and after schools reopened for in-person instruction last month.

The government has resisted a total lockdown because it does not want to further weaken an economy already devastated by unprecedented US sanctions. The Trump administration reimposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers.

With the death toll skyrocketing, authorities are now starting to impose more restrictions. The government closed museums, libraries, beauty salons, schools and universities in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.

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