TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says its novel coronavirus infections surpassed one million cases today, as authorities consider easing restrictions in many parts of the Middle East’s hardest hit country.
The Islamic Republic has recorded 1,003,494 COVIDd-19 infections since announcing its first cases in February, ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari says on state television.
The novel coronavirus has killed 49,348 people in Iran over the same period of time, according to official figures.
But by the admission of some officials, including Health Minister Saeed Namaki, these figures are much lower than the reality.
In the past 24 hours the virus caused 358 new deaths in the country with a population of more than 80 million, and 13,922 new cases of infection, Lari says.
The number of fatalities, however, appears to have slightly eased in past days after soaring to a daily average of more than 400 for much of November.
COVID-19 first surfaced in Iran on February 19, when authorities said it claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom, a Shiite holy city south of the capital.
They were the first confirmed deaths from the disease in the Middle East.
In response, the authorities have taken a series of measures aimed at halting the spread of the virus.
But faced with the dual challenge of US sanctions and the pandemic, they have never imposed full lockdowns for fear they would cause further damage to Iran’s battered economy.