Iran’s rapid rise in Covid-19 cases stokes fears of second wave

Fears that Iran is in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus have been reinforced, with the health ministry saying 3,000 new cases were recorded in 24 hours – the highest figure for two months.

The Islamic Republic, one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East, started easing its lockdown in April after a drop in deaths.

Its leaders have been reluctant to acknowledge that they may have lifted restrictions prematurely. They have argued that a recent rise in new infections was confined to certain provinces and that the number of deaths was relatively low. At the weekend the president, Hassan Rouhani, said most restrictions had now been lifted, pointing to the opening of 40,000 mosques, as well as shops and offices. Despite a clear reversal of fortunes in the past fortnight, few newspapers appeared willing to acknowledge that the virus had not been conquered.

But health ministry officials on Monday sent out a dire warning about complacency, saying the battle was far from over.

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