Iran on Monday recorded its highest daily death toll from Covid-19 as the number of fatalities passed 70,000 in the country hardest hit by the coronavirus in the Middle East.
Since Sunday, 496 new deaths were tallied, passing Iran’s previous most deadly day in mid-November when 486 were reported, state TV reported.
Officials counted 21,026 more confirmed cases over the same 24 hours, putting the total confirmed cases at about 2,417,230 since the outbreak in February last year.
Also on Monday, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the death toll could rise sharply in coming weeks.
“We will have two to three bitter weeks ahead that should be managed in a proper way,” Mr Namaki told the official Irna news agency.
Iranian officials say the Covid strain identified in India is spreading after the UK variant, which arrived in Iran from Iraq in March.
On April 10, Iran began a partial lockdown in the capital Tehran and other major cities amid a fourth wave of infections, a worrisome trend after more than a year.
Authorities blame the increasing death toll on a disregard for health measures on public transport and at family gatherings.
Iran has administered only 820,000 doses of vaccine in a country of 84 million, the Health Ministry said.
Covax, an international collaboration to deliver vaccines equitably across the world, this month delivered its first shipment to Iran from the Netherlands, containing 700,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses.