Iran's Covid-19 deaths cross 60,000 mark

An intensive care unit for Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, on Dec 16, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran's health ministry said the country's coronavirus fatalities broke the 60,000 mark on Sunday (Feb 28), as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.

The grim milestone comes after several Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, warned of a Covid-19 "fourth wave" with cases rising in certain areas of the country.

"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.

Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.

But some officials - including Health Minister Saeed Namaki - have admitted in the past that the actual numbers are likely higher than the official figures.

Coronavirus task force spokesman Alireza Raisi on Friday said that Iran is "very concerned" about the more contagious British variant of the virus, which has already "circulated in the country".

"We have identified 112 people infected with the British variant in the country, eight of whom have died," he said, according to the health ministry.

He noted that the variant was seen in many provinces including the capital Teheran, and the virus' new focal point in the south-west, Khuzestan.

The number of daily infections has hit 8,000 in recent days, a level still much lower than the record high of 14,051 infections registered on November 27.

Daily deaths dropped below 100 in early January, the lowest level since June.

Teheran started a national vaccination campaign on Feb 9 using Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, with the first target groups being health workers, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Iran is also working on locally developed vaccine projects, with the clinical trials of the second home-grown vaccine starting on Sunday.

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