Iran deaths pass 30,000 as Covid-19 restrictions are extended

Iran is officially the hardest-hit county in the Middle East, but the true toll may be three times worse

Iran's official death toll from Covid-19 passed 30,000 on Saturday night as the hardest-hit country in the Middle East extended restrictions and closures in Tehran for the third week.

Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public centres in the city, where the infection rate is highest, have been closed since October 3 and Tehran province governor Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpey announced an extension of the measures until at least Friday, state media reported.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 253 deaths and 4,103 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the official number of fatalities to 30,123.

Iran is experiencing its third surge of infections and claims its fight against the virus has been hampered by US sanctions, which limited its crude oil sales and access to foreign banks.

On Wednesday, Iran reported record daily figures of 279 deaths and 4,830 new infections. It registered more than 250 deaths and 4,000 cases in each of the past six days.

Coronavirus around the world 

The Iranian rial was trading at a new low of about 322,000 per dollar on Saturday on the unofficial market, according to the foreign exchange website, with the currency affected by concerns about new US sanctions that may block some Iranian medicine purchases.

A requirement to wear face masks in public in Tehran, imposed last Saturday, remains in effect, as does a ban on travelling in and out of five cities including Tehran, a measure that was announced last Wednesday.

While the official numbers of cases and deaths put Iran before other countries in the region, government documents seen in August by BBC Farsi said the true figures were about three times higher.

That is without factoring in tens of thousands of potential cases not diagnosed given poor early testing outside Tehran.

This year there were satellite images of mass graves because, according to official numbers, a patient died in Iran every seven minutes from Covid-19.