The death toll from COVID-19 in Iran has surpassed 25,000, the highest total in the Middle East, as cases continue to surge.
The healthy ministry reported 175 deaths on Thursday and 3,521 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s total confirmed cases to 436,319.
In the past 30 days, 5,000 people infected with the coronavirus have died and 80,000 new infections have been registered, resulting in a total of 25,015 deaths and 436,319 recorded cases, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Lari told state television.
The ministry said it was only a matter of time before a “third wave” of infections would hit Iran, which according to health experts could be worse than the first two, with bottlenecks in medical care for those infected.
Iran has been battling a resurgence of COVID-19, with figures showing a rise in new infections and deaths since a two-month low in May.
The situation is reportedly critical in large cities, especially the capital Tehran, with its 13 million inhabitants.
Iran’s health officials have voiced alarm over the spike in infections, urging the nation to respect health protocols to control the spread of the disease.
President Hassan Rouhani has previously referred to the pandemic as a long-term problem and has said lockdowns are not ideal, but he has indicated a willingness to act following the renewed rise in cases.
“If there is a new wave of infections, we will be forced to reintroduce some restrictions,” he wrote on his official website on Thursday.
Iran suffered the region’s first major outbreak, seeing top politicians, health officials and religious leaders in the country diagnosed with the virus.
International experts remain suspicious of Iran’s case counts.
Even researchers in the Iranian parliament in April suggested the death toll is likely nearly double the officially reported figures, due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems has been tested for the virus.