Iran should brace for ‘second coronavirus wave’ as cases pass 150,000
The government has largely lifted restrictions to help stop the spread of the pandemic
Iran must brace for a second, stronger wave of coronavirus infections if people ignore guidelines, health minister Saeed Namaki said on Monday.
The Islamic Republic is already one of the hardest-hit nations in the Middle East with over 150,000 cases. However, a parliament report in April suggested the true scale could be many multiples higher given a lack of widespread testing.
After the country started easing lockdown rules in April, cases surged again in May although the government played down fears saying the rise was due to increases in testing, especially outside Tehran and major urban centres.
"The outbreak is not over yet and at any moment it may come back stronger than before," Saeed Namaki said in a news conference broadcast on state TV. "If our people fail to respect the health protocols ... we must prepare ourselves for the worst situation."
Iran has reported a total of 154,445 infections as of Monday, an increase of 2,979 from the previous day.
It also reported 81 new deaths, taking the toll to 7,878.
Government employees went back to work and mosques resumed daily prayers on Saturday as part of the relaxation of the lockdown.
But authorities had to reimpose restrictions in the southern provinces of Khuzestan and Sistan Baluchestan in mid-May after an uptick of cases there.
"There is still a long way ahead of us in our fight against this virus ... All the health protocols should be respected," Mr Namaki said.
Yet, according to President Hassan Rouhani, Iran was in "an acceptable situation" which is "not even fragile" anymore.
Mr Rouhani said Covid-19's reproduction number used to be more than two in Iran but that it was now "less than one".
Such a rate suggests a virus is petering out, according to scientists.
Experts at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.
Updated: June 1, 2020 03:04 PM