Iran’s coronavirus cases creep up after officials ease lockdown

Bloomberg | : New coronavirus cases in Iran are rising again after lockdown measures were relaxed.

Despite official calls for social distancing, Iran on Wednesday reported its longest increase in infections since March 28. New cases averaged 1,200 daily over the last five days, almost 10% higher than the daily average for the same period the week before.

The official death rate hasn’t risen commensurately.

“People need to take more seriously the fact that we haven’t returned to normal conditions,” Kianush Jahanpur, spokesman for Iran’s Health Ministry, said in comments on state TV, confirming a “regrettable” rise in cases in recent days.

Iran has relaxed restrictions on businesses and some schools in an effort to keep afloat a cash-strapped economy saddled with U.S. sanctions.

In Tehran, where officials relaxed lockdown measures later than the rest of the country, traffic has resumed to pre-outbreak levels, and many restaurants and shopping areas are busy. Officials are still urging people to avoid non-essential travel and work.

Some 101,650 Iranians are known to have been infected with the virus, and 6,418 people have died, according to the latest Health Ministry figures.

— With assistance by Golnar Motevalli