Iran said on Wednesday that 140 of its health workers had died of the novel coronavirus, with thousands of others infected, as officials urged Iranians to observe health protocols.
The Islamic republic has been struggling to contain the Middle East’s worst COVID-19 outbreak since announcing its first cases in mid-February.
“Five thousand of our doctors and nurses have been infected with COVID-19, and tragically, we have lost 140 of them” since the start of the pandemic, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in televised remarks.
“We all owe them our lives and to honour them, we must observe health protocols.”
Iran has been battling a resurgence of the COVID-19 illness, with official figures showing a rise in both new infections and deaths since a two-month low in May.
President Hassan Rohani also urged them to respect health regulations, in particular social distancing.
“We ask the people to avoid all gatherings and to adapt the way of life to the current situation” imposed by the virus, he said during a televised cabinet meeting Wednesday.
Lari said the country had recorded 13,410 deaths overall, with 199 in the past 24 hours.
She added that 2,388 people had also tested positive for the COVID-19, raising the total cases confirmed to 264,561.
The rising toll has prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and to allow the hardest-hit provinces to reimpose restrictive measures.
The capital Tehran has reintroduced restrictive measures for a week, after they were progressively lifted country-wide in April to reopen Iran’s sanctions-battered economy.
The province housing the city of more than 8 million is currently on “alert” status, according to Lari, and its virus taskforce has called for an extension of restrictions for another week.
“In the past 24 hours, 890 people were hospitalised in Tehran alone, which is equal to other provinces’ total patients,” IRNA state news agency quoted Alireza Lari as saying.
The restrictions in place include banning gatherings of more than 10 people and closing gyms, pools, zoos, cafes and other businesses.