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Iran says virus cases pass 90,000

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The number of novel coronavirus cases in Iran has passed 90,000, according to official figures released Sunday, as Tehran announced its lowest number of new deaths in weeks.

Health authorities have registered 1,153 new cases of the COVID-19 illness since midday Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 90,481, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a daily news briefing.

Sixty additional fatalities were recorded, with the overall death toll reaching 5,710, he added.

It is the country’s lowest number of officially declared deaths since March 10.

Iran announced its first novel coronavirus cases in February, and is the worst-hit country in the Middle East.

Jahanpour said Iranians needed to continue to respect health and social distancing measures, despite the decreasing death toll.

There has been speculation abroad that the real number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Iran could be higher, and even some local officials have questioned the declared figures.

Since April 11, authorities have allowed the phased reopening of some businesses and have relaxed some domestic travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Schools, universities, mosques, Shiite shrines, cinemas and sports stadiums, however, remain closed.

Meanwhile, some health officials in the Islamic republic have warned of the risk of a fresh outbreak.

Alireza Zali, the anti-coronavirus coordinator for the capital, criticised “hasty reopenings” that could “create new waves of sickness in Tehran and complicate efforts to bring the epidemic under control”, in comments quoted Saturday by semi-official news agency ISNA.

Another senior health ministry official has expressed similar fears for other hard-hit provinces.

Iranian authorities no longer provide provincial breakdowns of coronavirus cases and deaths, but Tehran province is considered to be among the worst affected.